Jun 112015

A lot of movies end at a clear “ending point.” The story is over, done, it’s a wrap, go home. But a few throw up bits of information to let you know what happened after the story. For example, “Animal House” let you know that this character became a Senator, that character was shot in Viet Nam, etc.

Some movies end with massive question marks, even if they don’t really mean to. One of the most famous examples of this is “Return of the Jedi.” Sure, it seemed a happy enough ending… the Emperor is dead, the Death Star destroyed, all the characters are dancing and clapping. What’s to question? Well… the Empire spanned an entire galaxy; taking out the Death Star and the Emperor would be like taking out Hitler and the Bismark in one strike, but leaving the rest of the Nazi military machine and political structure in place. So there has been 35 or so years of fan-speculation on the subject of “what happens next.” And perhaps most infamously of all: the Endor Holocaust. What do you *think* would happen if you detonate a billion-ton space station a few hundred kilometers above the surface of an inhabited world? Especially when that station isn’t orbiting the world in the first place, but just hovering over it?

Yes, this is the sort of thing I think about. And sometimes the “happy ending” of a movie bugs me, because it’s what must happen next that could potentially be even more interesting, or at least important to the characters or their world.

And so. A few days ago I watched “San Andreas,” the new disaster movie about a series of incredibly powerful earthquakes that hit California. Some impressive CGI hijinks ensue; The Rock does some heroics and we’re left with this closing conversation:

“What do we do now?”

“We rebuild.”

Music swells, camera pulls back, credits roll.

But… what *do* you do now? Given what was just depicted, what happens next?

If you don’t want spoilers… too bad. Because I’m giving away the plot.

So, what is the state of things as the movie ends?

1) Hoover Dam is utterly destroyed. No hydroelectric generation there anymore, and a massive flood racing down the Colorado River.

2) Los Angeles is destroyed. It appears that ground waves on the order of twenty feet or more high raced through the area.  All skyscrapers are either destroyed or so damaged as to be beyond repair.

3) San Francisco is equivalently destroyed, but with the added bonus of a several-hundred-foot-high tsunami racing into the Bay and sweeping up over the city.

4) The pullback at the end shows that the California coast from LA to SF has separated from the rest of the US, and is now an island. The gap is on the order of a few miles, I think.

So given those, what can we infer?

All underground infrastructure – sewer, water, power, communications lines, subways, gas lines – has been shredded along the entire region. Not just LA and SF, but everywhere.

Millions are immediately dead. The population of San Fran metro is over four and a half million; considering what’s shown, at least a third of ’em are dead. LA has more at nearly thirteen million; at least a third would seem likely dead given the lack of warning. While San Fran got some warning, it also got whacked by a tsunami that would have washed away everyone trying to get on a boat to get across the bay to “safety.”

That tsunami that hit SF? Those things go *every* which way. So, a short while later it sloshes up against the ruins of Los Angeles. Seattle gets inundated. Some hours later the Hawaiian islands get hammered, with cities like Hilo getting effectively trashed (Honolulu is on the other side of the island, so it and Pearl Harbor may survive… unless the wave is big enough to wash over the island). Then it slams into Japan, Australia, China, Viet Nam, the Philippines, etc. Millions more die even with a massive warning effort.

While California was obviously trashed, much of the rest of the country would be as well. At the end TV screens show that reverberations were felt as far away as New York and D.C. While this might not have caused any real damage there… what about Chicago? St. Louis? Omaha? Denver? Salt Lake? With the shaking going around, what does this do to the volcanoes and faultlines in the Cascades? How about Yellowstone, or the New Madrid fault? Further south, does Mexico City get trashed *again* by earthquakes?

Remember 9/11? The US economy took a noticeable hit because a few skyscrapers came down. But in the wake the the San Andreas quake, the US economy would *crash.* We’d probably go into a depression worse than the Great Depression. We wouldn’t be able to afford *anything.* Goodbye space program. And goodby military forces around the world. The Navy, Marines and Army would almost certainly all be brought home to help deal with the California nightmare.

ISIS? North Korea? Russian expansionism? Y’all are on your own. As the US withdraws, expect a lot of people to take advantage of the vacuum. The Norks finally re-invade South Korea. The Chinese take over *all* of the South China Sea region. You know, for “stability.”  The middle east? Oh, yeah, that whole region will turn “entertaining” in a heartbeat. The Russian army will be saying “howdy” to the likes of Latvia and Estonia and Poland just as soon as they can.

Now, what’s going on on the new island of California? Well… power generation has probably come to an end. Nuclear plants would have shut down, as would fossil fuel power generators. But they also most likely would have been damaged enough so that they won’t start up again anytime soon. Solar panels across the state have likely been shaken to bits. Wind turbines have been knocked over. And power lines have been universally brought down. With a maximum effort, it’ll be years before the power lines are back up.

Water and sanitation systems have been destroyed. The only clean water is what’s in bottles and what rains down from the sky.

Transportation? You’re walkin’. The roads are trashed. All the overpasses have been brought down. The larger airports are rubble; even many of the smaller airports will likely have buckled, undermined or shattered runways so that only relatively small aircraft will be able to get in. Trains are *done.* It’ll be years before the roads are back. Given the crevasses shown, not only will roads need to be rebuild, many entirely new bridges will need to be built. A lot of the roads will be very difficult to rebuild, such as those on hillsides. A lot of those will have simply slid off the hills, and there’ll be little basis to rebuild from.

Fuel? Only what’s coming in on ships. Food? Lots of it in cans; that’ll be looted within a few days. The agricultural regions of California will from one point of view be fine… the crops largely won’t care that the ground shook and the topography changed. But the *farmers* will care that there is now a canyon or a ridge across their farm. The irrigation systems are trashed; streams and rivers have now dried up, while new ones appear out of nowhere. Tractors that survived the quake will quickly run out of fuel. Refugees will descend upon farms like locusts.

California will quickly turn into “Mad Max.” Fortunately for the rest of the country, there is unlikely to be a mass migration of Californian refugees for the simple fact that there are no transport systems capable of taking large numbers. In order to use boats to transfer masses of refugees from the east coast of California to the new west coast, you’d need:

1) Large numbers of boats

2) An effective way to transport the refugees *to* the new coast

3) Docks on both shores

4) An effective way to transport the refugees *from* the coast they’ve been deposited upon to centers elsewhere in the country.

As for #1, boats: a *lot* of the vessels on the west coast will now be at the bottom of the sea. A lot more are now well inland. And others will be damaged to varying degrees. Many boats will be available, but nowhere near what there once were.

As for #2 and #4: in both the island of California and the new west coast, the roads are trashed. For the most part, everyone is walking on Isla California, and they’ll be walking for miles and miles once they wash up in Otisburg.

And as for #3, the docks: obviously there wouldn’t be any. Additionally, it’s hard to say just how shallow the strait is; it may well be too shallow and chaotic for anything but small boats to get through. It would certainly be poorly mapped, with unknown underwater hazards and chaotic currents.

So… for all intents and purposes, those stuck on Isla California after the quake will be there for a good long while. Visitors, such as tourists, people on business trips and those simply there because their planes were on layover at LAX when things went screwy, will find that for the foreseeable future they will be residents.

Of course the problems will extend beyond California. Hoover Dam is gone. This means that Lake Mead has drained away to nothing. Las Vegas now has nothing to drink. Better, without the power generated by the dam, Las Vegas has largely gone dark. Even if the quakes haven’t damaged the city, it has still become essentially non-viable.

The cities and towns downriver from Hoover Dam are doomed as the flood – which isn’t composed purely of nice fluffy water, but is loaded with things like trees and smashed up houses and cars and trucks and a whole lot of dead folk – comes steamrolling through. One upside to this is that the Colorado River will, for the first time in decades, actually make it to the Gulf of California. Bulhead City and Needles and Lake Havasu City and Yuma had better be on the ball on evacuations.

Cities that today are stuck in the overheated, over-dry central part of the state will find themselves beachfront property. I don’t know that rainfall patterns will really change much, but being close the water will surely change things a great deal for cities like Bakersfield and Sacramento and Fresno and Palmdale and Barstow. The possibility exists that channels will open up and the ocean will fill in Death Valley.

Long term, the possibility is that America will be a more interesting place, with a giant island just off the west coast, with many hundreds of miles of new shoreline for developing. But in the near term? We’d be looking at on the order of ten million dead pretty much instantly… with perhaps a few dozen million more deaths in the months that follow due just to the *basic* effects of the quake. This does not take into account the deaths that will be due to the crop failures in the Midwest due to the ash darkened skies and increased radiation due to the India-Pakistan nuclear war, the Israeli-Iranian nuclear exchanges, the burning of the Korean peninsula, China going after the Japanese and the Russians invading Europe. Millions elsewhere will likely die due to the prompt stoppage of American economic and humanitarian assistance.

The economy would of course collapse. But this would be *good* for many people in the long run. Steel and concrete producers, construction companies and construction workers, would be looking at an unbelievable payday… once it’s figured out just *who* is going to pay and where the money is coming from.

There would be some serious cultural shifts. Hollywood is of course gone. San Francisco is also gone. There are those elsewhere in the US who would see this as an act of an Angry God, cheesed off about how wicked those places were. Expect to see a rise in religions and cults. Expect to see politicians blaming the other side for the disaster, not based on any real evidence or logic, but because that’s what politicians do. Expect to see Californian refugees become as popular in the rest of the US as Okies were in California back in the day, or as popular as Hurricane Katrina refugees were in places like Houston.

If religious nuts who see the event as the act of an angry God are good at their jobs, they could well greatly alter the political landscape, perhaps to the point that the reconstruction of California is delayed, cancelled or throttled. You wouldn’t rebuild Sodom, would you?

And with the massive death toll and scattering of refugees, the next census is not only going to be a challenge to carry out accurately, it will result in a serious drop-off in Californian Representatives in Congress.

There will be some weird real estate doin’s. Some of the most expensive real estate on the planet has been reduced to rubble; the owners in many cases are dead people or wiped-out businesses. But it’ll be clear that *eventually* the region will get rebuilt, though initially nobody’ll be entirely sure just how. So real estate speculation is going to be rampant. Given that the US economy is in the toilet… perhaps Isla California will wind up being largely owned by the Chinese or Indians? Or perhaps laws will be quickly passed by Congress that nationalize the area, or only permit ownership of land by citizens or US-based companies. That may sound good… but keep in mind that Mexico has essentially those laws. And rebuilding Isla California to have the same level of governmental corruption as Mexico seems a bad idea.

How about unemployment? Well, with all the reconstruction needed in California and surrounding regions, there will be a *lot* of work, once there’s someone who can pay to do it. Presumably the US Federal government will produce some “New Deal” types of programs, borrowing heavily from the future or from other nations in order to pay for rebuilding. But with the inevitable population drop, it’s less than clear just how much rebuilding will be needed.

After Katrina, much of the rebuilding was done by non-citizen construction workers. They are of course cheap, and the refugees – exactly the people you’d think best for this role – found that jobs or government benefits were available elsewhere. But after the San Andreas quake, the government wouldn’t have the funds for a whole lot of welfare, and due to the economic collapse jobs elsewhere would be thin. So, a lot of the rebuilding would be done by the refugees. Of course, a lot of non-US citizen construction workers would try to get in on it. But if reconstruction work was the *only* way that millions of people could get a place to stay and food to eat… immigrants would find themselves *real* unpopular, real fast. Expect riots. And expect conspiracy theories to run rampant, with tall tales being readily believed by millions of desperate people. This sort of thing often leads to Very Bad Things. So expect those riots to trend towards race riots, and expect them to be quite bloody.

Much of the American aerospace industry is located within the region affected by the quake. Thus even if NASA, Congress, the President and the American people all wanted to keep the space program going and were willing to pay for it… much of the industry needed to support it would be underwater, burned to ash, flattened by rubble, cut off from resources and the staff run away or dead. The same will apply to much of the American electronics industry. Many businesses elsewhere in the US – and around the world – will simply freeze up due to the stoppage of parts coming from Californian factories.


In summary: after the credits begin to roll on “San Andreas,” that note of dogged determination and optimism will be replaced with the realization that life just got really, really bad for a really, really long time.

 Posted by at 12:20 am
  • Paul451

    Because I’m giving away the plot.


    4) The pullback at the end shows that the California coast from LA to SF has separated from the rest of the US, and is now an island.

    Damn it, film-makers, it’s a slip-fault, okay? It goes north/south, that’s it. The ocean plate containing California and Baja is moving north towards Washington state, California will never be an island, it doesn’t work that way.

    with perhaps a few dozen more deaths in the months that follow due just to the *basic* effects of the quake.

    I assume you mean dozen million more deaths?

    Re: Everyone invading everyone else.

    The US military will be incredibly twitchy about any aggression by a US enemy. Russia invading NATO-members in eastern Europe (or Europe as a whole) would be seen as a test for a preemptive nuclear strike against the US while it’s down. Surviving US forces would therefore be on highest alert. Indeed, depending on the make-up of the Administration, you may see the US take preemptive military action to prevent future threats. As the Bush Administration did in Iraq. Only with even less restraint. (After all, no “Hollywood liberals” to worry about.) And with millions of the deaths at home, there will be no hesitation using nukes. (And everyone else in the world will know that.)

    Idiot-nations like North Korea may well try something, and will be smacked hard. (And China may use them as a proxy to test the US, which is why they will be smacked hard, as a warning to China/Russia.) But in general China is smart enough to continue with its current strategy, incremental expansion, rather than sudden invasions and attacks. The power vacuum helps it, showing military restraint helps it win respect, a major issue in China. (The Chinese economy may burst. The result of that is pretty unpredictable. But China will be able to crack down on dissent with even more impunity than usual.)

    With Russia… Who knows? I’d hate to be Ukraine, Kazakstan, etc. But Poland should be fine, they won’t risk trigging the US military.

    • Scottlowther

      > I assume you mean dozen million more deaths?

      Indeed so.

      > California will never be an island,

      I don’t have access to the imagery, just a few seconds of screen time badly stored in my noggin. It *may* be that Isla California didn’t so much move out to sea as the area of the fault line simple sank or a big-ass crack deeper than sea level opened up. Of course, this being Hollywood, I’d not be surprised that the explanation here is that slightly greasy solar atoms caused neutrinos to mutate and push California out to sea…

      As for the US military: I’m pretty sure that given the scenario here, the Navy, Army and Marines would to a very great degree be brought home. A lot would depend on the Administration… one President would say “we need to continue to look strong” and bring home 25%, another President would say “we need all the forces here we can get” and bring home 90%. The US Air Force, though, I’m not sure would need to come home. For starters they’d have nowhere to land.

      The entire west coast would be dark. So having nuclear powered vessels sidle up to the coastline and run out some extension cords would probably be looked at as a good idea. Granted, I don’t think the entire nuclear navy could even make a real dent in the power shortfall, but whatever helps, helps.

      • Brianna

        Probably could at least help keep the hospitals running, if nothing else. That would save lives right there.

      • publiusr

        In terms of the Endor holocaust… if woo-woo antigravity plating was involved, I’d think the debris would form a ring. If the metal was hydrogen, it might be consumed by the explosion. If this thing were steel–it would be a holocaust.
        Lastly, a large side was unfinished–this might have allowed the bulk to be pushed away from Endor…

        • Herp McDerp

          It might not be as bad as some would think. Sure, the Death Star II wasn’t in orbit around the Forest Moon Endor … but apparently it *WAS* in orbit around its primary, with the Death Star II further away from the primary since we never saw the primary in the sky. My impression was that Endor was like the Yavin system, with an Earth-sized object orbiting a jovian planet (although the people who write for the Star Wars universe apparently gave half a dozen different descriptions of the system). The orbital mechanics of a satellite system in a deep gravity well are very counter-intuitive, and it takes a lot of effort to move stuff toward or away from the primary. I suspect that most of the debris would form a ring around the primary outside of Endor’s orbit.

          And although we know the Death Star II is pretty damn big, its mass is going to be very low. It was mostly empty space inside, and the explosion would have had a hard time accelerating the wreckage.

        • Paul451

          Re: Endor

          If it wasn’t in orbit around the Primary, or Endor-Yavin L2, then the Death Star was likely hovering because of magic AG/repulsors, in which case the energy from debris would be from simple falling. Ep=mgh. And as soon as the debris hits the atmosphere it will start to slow to terminal velocity. That’s not the same as an asteroid impact of equivalent mass, where the velocity is orders of magnitude higher, therefore the energy is the square of those orders of magnitude.

          The falling wreckage would obviously cause enormous local destruction where it hits, but not a “holocaust” or enough to genocide the ewoks. (And, in canon, the celebration/funeral-pyre was on the ground near the destroyed energy-station. The main fall of the Death Star debris would have been almost immediate. So we know the damage wasn’t that bad.)

          Hell, salvaging the Death Star wreckage would become the major industry of the ewoks. (They have fire, language, tool-use, abstract thought and problem solving ability. They would quickly recognise the enormous resources.)

        • Peter Hanely

          I make 2 assumptions regarding deathstar 2 greatly different from the usual Endor holocaust scenario: Considering difficulty in disposing of waste heat for something that big, deathstars are “fluffy” compared to smaller ships. And firing that main weapon at a moon at point blank range is suicidal, therefore the station was putting some distance behind it in preparation for the carrying out the order to destroy Endor. Both factors would reduce the amount of debris striking the moon.

      • B-Sabre

        Given you can put a C-130 down in about 2 football fields, there would have to be stretches of land that big somewhere – the whole island isn’t going to turn into corduroy. Now, whether those places are near anything worthwhile is another question. I could see them bringing the entire V-22 fleet to Cali to support the urgent evac requirements.

        • Paul451

          Moreso, runways are fairly resilient. It wouldn’t take the Army Corps of Engineers long to get many runways repaired. Tanker aircraft to ship in fuel. AWACS to take over ATC duties. Then commercial aircraft could be brought in to evacuate refugees. (Supplies in, refugees out. Over and over.)

          When you look at the number of passengers who fly daily out of major airports, you could evacuate the entire state within a week.

      • George

        OK Great analysis of a possible follow-on to the world after the quake. However if that 700 foot tsunami holds together good by most of east coastal Japan, and good by Shanghai and actually most of central China. Not to mention a lot of Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia totally gone, and a good portion of the East Indies. 10-15 million immediate dead in CA-add 300 Million to maybe approaching 1 Billion dead in the Asia Pacific region. War-if Kim stuck his nose out 1 inch We would nuke the crap out of him. Russia-the true paper tiger in the world today. Yeah they roll over weak opponents-but to be blunt the war with Georgia was really a disaster for them-yeah I know they succeeded in their objective but the very weak and smaller Georgian forces extracted a high price.. And yeah the Russians went thru reform in the Armed Forces, but they were only going to buy about 500 new aircraft in the next 15 years, 2 dozen or so surface combatants, similar number of subs, and couple of 100 or so of that new tank-and that was predicated on oil staying at $100 a barrel. And just in this past week a Bear, Fulcrum, and Fullback spun, crashed, and burned. I have a feeling if those tanks actually started moving west, the French would say screw this, and nuke the hell out of the Russians. If anything Scott you were too conservative in your post earthquake analysis.

  • philot

    Good grief, you’ve got more threads for an epic story there than in the movie itself. You’ve just scratched the surface , follow through and get 9 books out of that. Hollywood loves franchises with a locked in audience these days.

    It Seems like you made a pretty good case for the rest of the country needing new Sodom/Gomorrah.

  • Allen Ury

    Scott, you really spend a lot of time thinking and writing about a very silly movie.

    • Scottlowther

      I spend a lot of time thinking about a lot of things. Sadly, I don’t get *paid* to think about a lot of things. 🙁

      • Adam

        I’ve got this mental image of you reciting the content of this blog post to a girl on a date for some reason.

        • Scottlowther

          And if said girl was interested in said post… I’d be in love.

  • becida

    Ever read the book “The last days of the late great state if California”?
    It was out in the late 60s, the last part of the book was what happened after can fell into the ocean.

  • Siergen

    A friend of mine who used to live near San Diego told me about a government disaster preparedness study he once read. The paper looked at what would if happen if the majority of the aqueducts leading to southern California were knocked out. Supposedly, if this happened in the dry season, it would be physically impossible to ship fresh water in and people out fast enough to prevent massive numbers of deaths due to dehydration.

    • Herp McDerp

      Yup. And the people of San Diego would be well and truly stuck — bring down the bridges on three interstates (I-5 north of Oceanside, I-8 west of Pine Valley, I-15 north of Escondido) and the one — count it, one — rail line, and there’s no mass movement of people or food in and out except by air or by sea.

  • Madoc

    Scott & all,

    Some thoughts…

    First off, Californian refugees would most likely be treated much better than Katrina’s diaspora. The same millions of Californians who’s labors create and sustain so much wealth in this state would be welcome pretty much anywhere else to do the same. Hell, even now there’s plenty of state level efforts lure California’s workers away.

    So, the fifteen to twenty or so million Californians who survived the quake would taken care of. First off, they’re US citizens – well, the US citizens that are Californians are US citizens. All those illegals in California would be another thing entirely. Given the sudden disaster, I can not see them being blindly welcomed by the rest of the country. This, even if Mexico is in even worse a situation than California-east.

    As to the rest of the world, yeah, it’d be bad. I believe California currently holds up as being about the eleventh largest economy, ere it be counted separately, in the world. So, a sudden 10% or so of world economic force taken out of the world economy would be dire indeed. This, especially as the tsunami’s effects across the Pacific get taken into account. That and the loss of LA & SF as transshipment points for goods entering the US and headed for destinations outside of California.

    Among other things, futures in almonds would be mighty lucrative for the money smart enough to get in on it.

    Militarily? Well… The US Pacific Fleet would be in for a hard time. San Diego is THE base on the West Coast for us. Considering that base now gone and having taken with it what ever ships were in harbor at that moment, that’d be a significant loss of naval strength and sustainment capability.

    But not a permanent one nor one completely eliminating America’s ability to continue projecting its military force throughout the world.

    Yes, I could see lots of our ground troops being sent to California to restore order, provide emergency services, assist with the evacuation of the survivors, and staying on to help the basic rebuilding. But our strategic capabilities would remain largely intact. AND we’d have a lot more incentive to use them sooner than later as our conventional force “cushion” would be so otherwise unavailable.

    Some “lower level” antics we could and would most likely ignore. Lotsa fun in determining where that lower lower level exists. But major stuff that affects our allies? No, we’d still be able – and have to – respond to that.

    • Scottlowther

      > Californian refugees would most likely be treated much better than Katrina’s diaspora

      I could see it going any which way, with the difference between “open arms” and “gwan, git” being little more than a single politician saying something stupid. Of course, a lot of it will depend on the conditions on the island; if it quickly devolves into cannibalism and thuggocracy and such, they’re not going to be too welcome elsewhere.

      Moving, say, 20 million people into the rest of the US might result in some politician deciding that private residences are to be appropriate as “temporary” refugee housing. That won’t go over extremely well.It won’t go over especially well for people who are already perturbed about the thousands of immigrants from Jihadistan that the US government parked down the block a little while back and has made no effort to Americanize.

      As to the military situation: I think we’d be largely stuck with the USAF and the Trident forces for power projection for a while. So, our options would be reduced to “do nothing” and “nuke the shit out of ’em.” I can see the Russians concluding that “there’s no way the Americans will fling nukes over a few square km of Finland, and then a few square km of Estonia, and then of Poland…” *Especially* if the US leadership has a record of drawing a Red Line In The Sand and then doing nothing when the other guy walks right over it.

      • Herp McDerp

        … if it quickly devolves into cannibalism and thuggocracy and such …

        It will. The key problem will be water. Most of the population will be dead within two weeks.

        Did Isla California also include Baja? I wonder what the two million or so people in the Tijuana metro area would do …

  • Jon

    He’s not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.

  • Herp McDerp

    Oh, one more fun consequence to contend with: Fires. I’ve read that in the San Francisco quake a century ago, most of the damage and loss of life was due to fires. Think of all the broken natural gas lines. Think of all the busted roads that would be obstacles to fire trucks, and all the broken water mains that feed the fire hydrants.

    • publiusr

      I’d like to see all disaster movie effects put into one documentary mini-series about the fallout of an asteroid strike. Some effects from Deep Impact, San Andreas, etc.

      • Douchenozzle Hipsterfail

        “The Road” says it all. It’s not made clear in the book what the disaster is, but it could just as well have been a major impact for all the ash.

  • Southern Air Pirate

    If you have a strong enough quake to do what the movie shows. I would say this that you have to rebuild more than California. There is a very good chance that with that massive amount of energy release, you have wholesale damage and death as least from Vancouver BC in the North down to the tips of Baja CA (good bye all those tourist resorts) and at least as far inland as Salt Lake with at least 7-10 scale earth quakes. Which would basically mean that everything west of the Mississippi is destroyed or heavily damaged. Think of those early cold war assessments of a “limited” nuclear strike against the US. We could survive and we would be able to rebuild, but effectively; we are now a second rate or even third rate power. Most of our manufacturing base would be gone as well as you noted the brains to have that base return. As others have said there is a good chance we would rebound, but it would be a radically different world than now. The next good question would be as you have noted the post quake scenario and if the US isn’t the superpower, who would fill the gap? Well, it may not be the Chinese because those tsunamis would be going against their mainland cities as someone down thread noted. So they could be trying to rebuild themselves let alone a number of those manufactured islands would be destroyed by the waves. So most of Asia would be damaged and destroyed as well. Oh and there goes the rest of your electronics and high tech sectors as well if China, Taiwan and Japan are destroyed or heavily damaged

    I think we might see a massive collapse the world by an earthquake like what the movie showed. I think that we would see a retreat to regional fights and that these regional fights would be more dangerous than in the past. Why? Simple WMDs in the flavors of your choice. A number of smaller nations and even medium sized nations have some shape or form or the capabilities to produce the goods ones like chemical or biological and a few nukes. Well we might as well start to see that post-empire like world of the medieval times come around. Where people leave the cities and nations may collapse into city states and we could see a few hold on to the old. The best question would be who would rise in reach region to be the new power and that would be who could best rebound from the destruction.

    Oh and there would be a massive shift again of individuals from regions occupied by war and destruction into those regions that would be more peaceful. Only with the arrivals of the new refugees would lead to new conflicts as the new version of the Okies would run in conflict with the natives. That would be a world wide issue and potentially we might see whole islands of ships floating around with a new permanent class of refugee. Who aren’t accepted any place.

    • Scottlowther

      I don’t know that the range of Utter Destruction would progress *that* far afield. Sure, it’d be felt far, far away, but IIRC the magnitude drops pretty quick (inverse square law, maybe?).

      As for the tsunami: Hard to guesstimate just what it’ll be like when it sloshes up against Hawaii and Japan and China. It’d might’ve been huge in San Fran because it was generated right there, and quickly dispersed to nuthin’ in short order in other directions. Or it could’ve been a hundred feet high in Tokyo bay. In which case, South Korea – assuming the Norks don’t go nutso – will come out as an economic hyperpower, since they will be shielded from the tsunami by Japan.

      • Southern Air Pirate

        Look up when the New Madrid fault struck in 1800s at least a 9+ on the scale and were felt as far away as Bangor Maine if I remember right and did cause at least 3-4 scale damage in places like NYC and Boston. The Salt Lake Basin might be a stretch, but who is to say? I mean I know where I live up in Seattle we after we had that 2001 Nisqually quake they found a butt ton new fault lines and then after the Japanese Nuke Quake in 2011 they found that one which ran right under the street of my house in Oak Harbor, WA which wasn’t known before. That caused some excitement and made selling interesting a few years later. I mean the damage shown in that film seems to say that there is just a massive release of energy amongst a number of smaller fault lines as well as the major fault line. I was just thinking that if we accept the physics that produce a tsunami that can top over 746 feet, then we have to accept that the opposite reaction is the radiation of that wave form out to other areas of the Pacific. Again using real world examples and the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, where the epicenter was the northern tip of Sumatra the waves (although reduced) made it as far as Kenya and Madagascar and down south towards Australia. So scaling up and assuming they lose no energy as they destroy the central Pacific atolls, then yea the Philippines and Taiwan will shield the China coast to a point and Japan will shield the Korea area. However, the straits may concentrate the waves in some spots and do enough to disrupt or damage cities like HK or Shanghai. Of course I just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and am nowhere near a scientist of any sort.

      • TwoHatchet

        Don’t overlook the effects that a massive quake would have on the Earth itself. From NASA:

        NASA scientists using data from the Indonesian earthquake calculated it
        affected Earth’s rotation, decreased the length of day, slightly changed
        the planet’s shape, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. The
        earthquake that created the huge tsunami also changed the Earth’s

        Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
        Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion
        Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. said all earthquakes have some affect on
        Earth’s rotation. It’s just they are usually barely noticeable.

        “Any worldly event that involves the movement of mass affects the
        Earth’s rotation, from seasonal weather down to driving a car,” Chao

        Chao and Gross have been routinely calculating
        earthquakes’ effects in changing the Earth’s rotation in both
        length-of-day as well as changes in Earth’s gravitational field. They
        also study changes in polar motion that is shifting the North Pole. The
        “mean North pole” was shifted by about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in the
        direction of 145º East Longitude. This shift east is continuing a
        long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.

        also found the earthquake decreased the length of day by 2.68
        microseconds. Physically this is like a spinning skater drawing arms
        closer to the body resulting in a faster spin. The quake also affected
        the Earth’s shape. They found Earth’s oblateness (flattening on the top
        and bulging at the equator) decreased by a small amount. It decreased
        about one part in 10 billion, continuing the trend of earthquakes making
        Earth less oblate.

  • Finnn McCool

    One addition not mentioned, the port of Long Beach. Millions of tons of manufactured goods are brought through this port, from Asia. The recent work slowdown/strike there resulted in major logistics problems all over the country. If the port completely disappeared? Along with Vancouver? Re route to eastern ports takes a lot of time to say nothing of the fact those ports couldn’t handle the traffic. Most of which would be non existent if a tsunami ended up washing west across the Pacific to Australia/Asia

  • Jim Richardson

    minor nit, Seattle? Tsunami? Not unless it’s big enough to sweep over the Olympic mountains…

    • David Halliday

      In through Puget Sound. There is a drill being run next year called Cascadia Rising.

      Google it.

      Magnitude 9 off the Oregon Coast – we have this every 300-500 years and the last one was 350 years ago.

      • Jim Richardson

        That’s talking about a quake *within* puget sound. Not from California.

        A Tsunami from a Caliquake would have to either go over a mountain range, or take a couple 90 right turns in order to hit Seattle

        • Scottlowther

          I don’t know that a tsunami of the scale depicted in the movie *wouldn’t* go around corners, especially if the quake cause local faults to *also* go off. But even if the tsunami sweeps by the inlet without makign the corner, I can’t imagine that it won’t do anythign to the water levels there in Puget Sound. Even if the tsunami blows by any drains the sound by, say, a foot, having that foot of water race back in might cause a ruckus.

          But then, given movie-scale destruction, I suspect the tsunami sweeping through Seattle would be the only thing keeping the lava from Mount Rainier from completely frying the town…

  • Obakeinu

    Heh. Sorta like the question, “Who gets to rebuild Tokyo after Godzilla and his little friends come to call?”

  • Obakeinu

    And, I and some friends did the same kind of game theory after the movie, “Independence Day”. The world, let alone America, would be a *very* different place after the aliens got whupped.

  • Douchenozzle Hipsterfail

    Oceanfront property development in Arizona! If a split opens up where the Colorado River runs into the Gulf of California, the east bank would become the new west coast at least in that area. Expect massive new developments (& huge refugee influx, meaning lots of cheap labor) around Yuma and Blythe-Ehrenburg.

  • John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider” takes place in a post-California Apocalypse future, though not quite as bad: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shockwave_Rider. Some of his conclusions are quite similar to yours.

  • epobirs

    There’s this construction outfit in New York, called Damage Control…

  • epobirs

    Another good news / bad news consideration: such a massive seismic event is going to through a LOT of dust into the atmosphere. On the good news side, we won’t lack for drinking water because it going to rain and rain and rain. On the down side, it’s going to rain and rain and rain… the flood control channels are wrecked, right up to the Hoover Dam, which had taming the Colorado as one of its major reasons for being built. (I spent a week there last month on a job involving Freightliner’s self-driving rig.)