Last month, Ken Brownlee discussed the various geological factors associated with North American earthquakes, and specifically, the San Francisco quake of 1906. In this second, and final, installment he examines the similarities and differences between that quake and Hurricane Katrina. There were the reactions of the victims, the government, the humanitarians, and the insurers. Have times changed very much over the last 100 years? And if so, for the better, or for worse?

After almost every major disaster (the Mississippi flood of 1927 that killed over 1,000 people, the dust bowl of the 30s, world wars, the World Trade Center collapse, and the 2005 hurricanes), the government and media proclaimed that these were the “worst disasters America has ever suffered.” Certainly many were, in terms of loss of lives or monetary costs, the most expensive. But these were not necessarily the only “worst” American disasters. Another occurred 100 years ago in April of 1906. Responses to that disaster paralleled what happened after Katrina — some in a much superior way, and in other ways, a bit more frighteningly.

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