...In Los Angeles, all but one of 8,700 unreinforced masonry buildings - considered the most likely to collapse in a major quake - have been retrofitted or demolished. The state spent billions after the 1994 Northridge quake to retrofit more than 2,100 freeway overpasses, reporting this week that only a handful remain unreinforced.
Despite these improvements, however, officials believe that a major temblor could cause the level of destruction and disruption seen over the last week on the Gulf Coast.
More than 900 hospital buildings that state officials have identified as needing either retrofitting or total replacement have yet to receive them, and the state recently agreed to five-year extensions to hospitals that can't meet the 2008 deadline to make the fixes. More than 7,000 school buildings across the state would also be vulnerable during a huge temblor, a state study found, though there is no firm timetable for upgrading the structures.
And four Los Angeles Police Department facilities - including the Parker Center headquarters in downtown - worry officials, because they were built to primitive earthquake standards and might not survive a major temblor. Only two of the LAPD's 19 stations meet the most rigorous quake-safe rules.
"We could be dealing with infrastructure issues a lot like New Orleans," [Lucy Jones, "scientist-in-charge for the geological survey's Southern California Earthquake Hazards Team"] said. "Our natural gas passes through the Cajon PassÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. Water - three pipelines - cross the San Andreas fault in an area that is expected to go in an earthquake." Railway lines are also vulnerable, she said.
A catastrophic temblor at the right spot along the San Andreas could significantly reduce energy and water supplies - at least temporarily, she and others said. Researchers at the Southern California Earthquake Center said there is an 80% to 90% chance that a temblor of 7.0 or greater magnitude will strike Southern California before 2024.
"We aren't anywhere close to where I wish we were" in terms of seismic safety, Jones said.
Seismologists are particularly concerned about a type of vulnerable building that has received far less attention than unreinforced masonry.
There are about 40,000 structures in California made from "non-ductile reinforced concrete," a rigid substance susceptible to cracking. This was a common construction ingredient for office buildings in the 1950s and '60s, before the state instituted stricter standards. Few such structures have been seismically retrofitted, officials said...
There are two more pages of dire warnings at the link.