The lives of
millions will be changed after it breaks, and yet so few people understand it,
or even realize it runs through their backyard. Dvorak reveals the San Andreas
Fault’s fascinating history—and its volatile future.
It is a prominent geological feature that is almost
impossible to see unless you know where to look. Hundreds of thousands of
people drive across it every day. The San Andreas Fault is everywhere—and
primed for a colossal quake. For decades scientists have warned that such a
sudden shifting of the earth’s crust is inevitable. In fact, it is a geologic
The San Andreas Fault runs almost the entire length of
California, from the redwood forest to the east edge of the Salton Sea. Along
the way, it passes through two of the largest urban areas of the country—San
Francisco and Los Angeles. Dozens of major highways and interstates cross it.
Scores of housing developments have been planted over it. The words San
Andreas are so familiar today that they have become synonymous with earthquake.
Yet few people understand the San Andreas or the network of
subsidiary faults it has spawned. Some run through Hollywood, others through
Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. The Hayward Fault slices the football stadium
at the University of California in half. Even among scientists, few appreciate
that the San Andreas Fault is a transient, evolving system that, as seen today,
is younger than the Grand Canyon and key to our understanding of earthquakes
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