Posted at 04:49 PM ET, 03/15/2011

Japan earthquake and the response: Could a quake hit the U.S. next?


A man and woman walk along a pier at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Friday, March 11, as a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami struck Japan. (Jeff Chiu - AP)
Whenever a natural disaster occurs, America frets: Could that happen to us? The American media often heightens those anxieties by discussing the what-ifs of a natural disaster back home.

But are those discussions justified? Is the role of journalists to inform their readers and viewers about the possibilities of disaster? Or can the coverage sometimes be alarmist?

After the quake in Japan that has left more than 10,000 dead since Friday, videos, special reports, and prophesies have surfaced that discuss when a earthquake could next hit the U.S., and how much damage it could leave in its wake.

Reuters released a “special report” Tuesday entitled “Big California quake likely to devastate state.” The report predicted “unthinkable damage” when the next powerful quake strikes, which it reported would probably be within 30 years.

The report cites a 2008 study by the United States Geological Survey that predicts that when (not if) a major earthquake hits Southern California, it will cause 2,000 deaths and $200 billion in damage.

Online media outlets are passing around an animated video this week that shows what could happen to the Alaskan Way Viaduct during an earthquake.

The video was released by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) last year. WSDOT says it is aware of the risk and that it’s important to replace the viaduct “before Mother Nature takes it down.”

Watch the scary simulation:

CNN this week wrote a story on the so-called “prophet of doom,” Oregon’s earth science officer who consistently calls for better quake preparation in his state.

Earthquake scientist James Roddey says there's a one-in-three chance that a major quake will strike the region by 2061. The risk lies along a fault line that extends near Newport, Oregon, to Northern California, he says.

Watch him talk about the imminent Oregon quake:

What do you think? Is this coverage important or alarmist? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

By  |  04:49 PM ET, 03/15/2011

 
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