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An Utterly Terrifying Risk Assessment of California's Next Big Earthquake

The worst-case scenario means endless fires, impotent rescue services, and no water for months.
A fireman near Los Angeles searches for water in the aftermath of 1994's Northridge quake.
A fireman near Los Angeles searches for water in the aftermath of 1994's Northridge quake.Associated Press

Scientists don't know when California's next great earthquake will strike, but they do know just about everything else about it, and the potential ramifications are terrifying: impotent rescue services, widespread fires, and no fresh water for months.

And yet California officials haven't done much to prepare for such an immense disaster, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Service, at The Atlantic's CityLab 2014 summit in Los Angeles. “There's so much that science knows about what's going to happen, and we're seeing that not being used," she said.