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Study shows Ventura, Santa Barbara Counties face annual $320 million damage risk from big earthquake

 A basic failt map of the Santa Barbara Channel.
Dr. Ralph Archuleta
A basic fault map of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Annualized total for state now estimated at $9.6 billion, which is about two thirds of the national number.

It’s a part of life in the Tri-Counties. It’s the potential for an earthquake.

A new study shows California is projected to have $9.6 billion a year from earthquake damage. And, in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, the annual loss is estimated at about $320 million.

"This is a study we have been updating for the last 20 years...this is our fourth major update," said Doug Bausch, the the Director of Data Science at NitamIT. He’s one of the researchers involved in a new project which looks at how much earthquakes could cost parts of the nation.

"It annualizes earthquake risk across the United States, so we can compare jurisdictions, we can compare to other hazards. It's very useful for figuring out the relative risk of earthquakes," said Bausch.

The latest update shows that California makes up about 65% of the country’s annual quake damage cost. That total is now projected to be $14.7 billion.

"It is a state of the art assessment," said Bausch. "We look across eight return periods, from 100 year to 2500 years, and then we annualize it, which allows you to get the long term average earthquake losses."

Bausch says the numbers reflect the annualized average of quake damage, like an insurance company uses for calculating car insurance.

"Of course (the state losses) won't be $9.6 billion every year, but they'll be chunks of losses that will be on average $9.6 billion," said Bausch.

The new annualized number for Ventura County is $220 million, and for Santa Barbara County is $100 million.

The study was produced by the U.S. Geological Survey for FEMA. That’s important, because the data helps to guide earthquake preparedness spending.

Baush said California has been doing things which are making a difference in reducing potential damage. He notes that a number of programs have helped to do things like improve building resilience from quakes.

The study shows that 34 states face the chance of substantial losses from a major quake.

Aside from the dollars associated with earthquake recover, there’s the time. It took years, and in some cases decades for recovery from the most recent major quakes in the state, like the 1994 Northridge temblor which caused major damage in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.