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When budgeting for quakes, dig deep

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12:02pm, December 31, 2006

From San Francisco, at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union

If the earthquakes that have struck the United States since 1900 are any guide, the nation can now expect to suffer, on average, billions of dollars of seismic damage each year.

Analysts have often adjusted damage estimates from long-past quakes simply by taking into account monetary inflation. But by factoring in population and property-value changes since the old quakes occurred, planners could make damage and death-toll predictions that more accurately reflect today's conditions, says Kevin Vranes, a policy analyst at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Only three of the United States' post-1900 quakes cost more than $1 billion when they happened. In today's dollar value, three more would have broken the billion-dollar barrier. Factor in current population and property values as well as inflation, and 13 of those temblors would have inflicted $1 billion or more in damages.

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