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Trump puts quake alert on shaky ground

ShakeAlert graphic
A simulation shows the kind of alert that would be generated by an 8.0 quake. (PNSN via YouTube)

The Trump administration wants to eliminate federal support for the West Coast’s ShakeAlert earthquake warning system, but its backers in Congress won’t let it go without a fight.

“Defunding the earthquake early warning system isn’t just irresponsible – it’s dangerous,” Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., told GeekWire in an emailed statement.

“This is about giving people a warning of an earthquake or a tsunami.  A few precious seconds of warning can be the difference between life and death for a child in a school on the coast or a physician doing surgery in a local hospital,” Kilmer said. “This cut to public safety is just plain wrong, so we’re going to fight for a budget that doesn’t put people at risk.”

ShakeAlert was pioneered in California, but in April the monitoring and alert system was extended to Oregon and Washington state, where seismologists say there’s the potential for a catastrophic magnitude-9 quake nicknamed the Really Big One.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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