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Is Massachusetts ready for the Big One?

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Will the aftershocks from yesterday’s 5.8 Virginia earthquake that rumbled through the Northeast Corridor get people thinking more seriously about natural disasters as more than comic fodder for bloggers and the twitterati?

Politico reports the quake damaged the National Cathedral and cracked the Washington Monument. The Daily Item interviewed Lynn residents, including one who was visiting Washington and thought the violent shaking he felt was related to a terrorist attack. Reaction from the Berkshires is here and Cape Cod, here. The Globe talks to experts about earthquake frequency, while NECN talks to Alan Kafka, a seismologist at Boston College’s Weston Observatory, who explains how Eastern quakes differ from those out West, where people were not impressed.

Earthquake awareness has a long way to go in the Bay State. Boston office workers tumbled out of their downtown buildings only to remain on the sidewalk directly in front of those structures --some constructed decades before the days of reinforced masonry. Or worse they plowed ahead under scaffolding that isn’t reinforced at all or headed straight underground into the subway

Falling bricks and concrete should be obvious hazards. But there’s also the problem of liquefaction -- soil collapse -- in land-filled sections of the city like the Back Bay, the South End, or Logan Airport, which would cause structures to tilt, sink, or fall over. Or that the city’s evacuation routes barely stand up to the test of regular, predictable snowstorms, much less masses of people trying to flee an earthquake or an approaching hurricane like Irene.

A FEMA-funded MIT study estimated that a 5.5 to 7.0 near Boston or Cape Ann like the 18th century tremor would kill thousands and cost billions in damage. Not to mention the grave problems a quake would pose for nuclear power plants like Pilgrim Station (which didn’t have any problems yesterday) rated as having the second highest probability of catastrophic earthquake damage in the entire country by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

For most Bay State residents, 1755 is ancient history and hurricanes only happen in places like Florida or the Carolinas. Just five years ago, Carlo Boccia, who then directed Boston’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, told CommonWealth that he’d gotten “ho-hum” responses to his office's entreaties that people draw up evacuation plans and have a kit ready to go.

Not much has changed in Boston or elsewhere in the Northeast for that matter. “Ran out of house with only a hairbrush. So much for disaster planning,” one person tweeted after the quake.

But as the Springfield Republican notes, before June people in western Massachusetts didn’t think they had to worry about tornadoes either. And although storm forecasting minimizes hurricane-related deaths, a Category 3 storm would produce major damage in Boston as well as further west.

                                                                                                                                                                --GABRIELLE GURLEY


BEACON HILL

The gambling debate returns to Beacon Hill. WBUR gives the basics on the bill. Here is the Globe’s account. In an interview with the Herald, House Speaker Robert DeLeo takes a swipe at former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. In an interview with the Lowell Sun, DeLeo says the gambling plan would create 16,000 jobs -- 7,000 full-time positions, 6,000 temporary construction jobs and 3,000 full-time jobs in off-site industries that do business with casinos. CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow reports the Big 3’s proposal could end up in court.

The Sun Chronicle spotlights the long racino hunt at Plainridge racetrack.  The MetroWest Daily News argues that the current proposal has merit, but warns about competition from Rhode Island and Connecticut for the same clientele.

Two first-time candidates, Democrat Roger Brunelle Jr. of Middleboro and Republican Keiko Orrall of Lakeville, will face off next month after they emerged as winners in yesterday’s primary to replace former state Rep. Stephen Canessa.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Universal Hub reports on the first of a series of state hearings last night in the North End on a city proposal to ban fuel tanker trucks on Boston streets unless they are making a local delivery, a proposal that the industry is fighting but city officials say is common sense given the narrow streets and congestion.

A subcommittee of the Lowell City Council votes to restrict the hours Level 3 sex offenders can spend at the library, the Lowell Sun reports.

First it was the arson capital of the world. Then it was the auto theft capital and after that the auto insurance fraud capital. Now, the Eagle-Tribune reports, residents fear Lawrence could become the capital of out-of-control nightclubs, a designation that could hurt business development. Mayor William Lantigua responds by rehiring five laid-off police officers, the Lowell Sun reports.
 
A Lawrence city councilor says her apartment windows were vandalized because she talked to FBI investigators and signed a petition seeking the recall of Mayor William Lantigua, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Freetown officials have closed down public parks and fields after dusk because three mosquitoes tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus.

Emergency support beams to counter more than 150 cracked beams from age and snow will stay in place at Hingham Middle School while officials mull whether to spend the money to fix the building or construct a new school for $57 million.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Tom Ashbrook’s On Point discusses Warren Buffet’s tax-the-rich proposal. Meanwhile, Forbes tells us Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple, with combined earnings of $76 million.

The New Republic outlines President Obama’s options for fixing the economy.

Slate looks at the new GOP orthodoxy - taxing poor people.

ELECTION 2012

Blue Mass Group posts a press release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association endorsing Elizabeth Warren.

The American Prospect examines Rick Perry’s cowboy persona.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A Globe editorial praises Verizon union workers for returning to work.

Wall Street traders beg Ben Bernanke to commit more treason.

A federal bankruptcy judge has overturned a Worcester foreclosure, in the first challenge to a foreclosure’s validity since the state SJC cracked down on sloppy paperwork.

The Berkshire Eagle says bringing broadband service to rural public buildings is an important step but the effort will fall short if homes and business don’t benefit as well.

EDUCATION

The state Education Commissioner is calling for state officials to step in and help run the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, which is currently under investigation for spending money excessive salaries, perks and bloated rents.

TRANSPORTATION

The T’s salary structure offers little flexibility in hiring a new GM, CommonWealth reports.

A Northeastern University geotechnical engineer compares thawing marine clay, like the stuff that used to be under the I-90 tunnel at South Station, to a house of cards.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Patriot Ledger opines that it’s “a stupid decision” for the EPA to direct a $1.7 million fine against Clean Harbors toward tree planting in Boston rather than the purchase of an emergency hazardous waste response truck as requested by Braintree, where the firm is located and the offense took place.

National Review editor Jonah Goldberg, who saw wind turbine blades beings transported across the country while he and his daughter were driving on vacation recently, concludes the “green jobs” push is a bust, the “moral equivalent of a quagmire.”

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A fatal accident in Milford reignites the debate over a federal program that prioritizes the deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records, the Worcester Telegram reports.

Federal firearms officials are examining hundreds of guns seized from a Vermont immigration agent and a state investigator who sell guns at gun shows because several of the seized weapons were used in fatal shootings in Boston and Brockton.

 

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