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Fires Knock Out Quake Monitors

October 29, 2003|Kenneth Reich | Times Staff Writer

Sixty-six of Southern California's 360 earthquake monitoring stations have been knocked out of service and key relay facilities probably have been destroyed by the fires of recent days, a manager of the California Integrated Seismic Network said Tuesday.

Manager Egill Hauksson of Caltech said the outages would reduce the reporting of small quakes that occur by the dozens each day.

But large, damaging quakes would be recorded by remaining stations, he said.

Total repair costs could cost government agencies $300,000, Hauksson said.

"In the recent fire, we have probably lost our microwave repeat site and Trinet/CISN station at Strawberry Peak, near Lake Arrowhead," he said.

Witnesses saw a nearby facility belonging to AT&T burning, but it will take a crew from Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey to confirm, after the fires are out, that the sites are destroyed, Hauksson said.

The Strawberry Peak station relays data from 60 monitoring stations, none of which have been heard from since the fires swept through the area near the Rim of the World Highway, southwest of Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County.

"We also have lost several ... sites in the Oat Mountain and Simi Valley areas of the Santa Susana Mountains," Hauksson said. These sites, which date from the beginnings of the seismic network, are used primarily to locate small quakes.

Hauksson said the wildfires in Southern California "have significantly reduced the ability of the seismic network to monitor earthquakes in the region. The primary problem is loss of commercial communications and power without our telemetry system."

"We may also have lost some equipment in the field," he added.

The Geological Survey is self-insured against such losses. Other contributors to the network are the state Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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