PIEDMONT (KPIX 5) – A number of questions about the quake that struck in the East Bay early Wednesday remain unanswered because of the federal government shutdown in Washington.
The epicenter of the magnitude 3.4 earthquake in the Oakland Hills right in the parking lot of Piedmont’s Bentley School. Thankfully, the school had zero damage.
But beyond the basic measurements of the earthquake’s magnitude and depth, there aren’t many details available.
That is because the U.S. Geological Survey office in Menlo Park has been closed because of the federal government shut down.
After an earthquake, a seismologist is almost always available to discuss the seismic event. But on Wednesday, phone calls to the office only got an outgoing voicemail message.
“I’m assuming there’s somebody keeping track of the seismology data around here somewhere that’s not working for the government,” said East Bay resident Paige Lawrence, who felt the quake.
That someone is Peggy Hellweg at the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab.
The university has a standing agreement with the feds that in the event of a shutdown, the Berkeley lab would handle the brief initial review of any earthquake.
However, only that initial assessment is covered by the lab.
“We’re not taking over the big job that they have, which is reviewing all of the earthquakes that happen,” explained Hellweg.
She said after a month, the USGS’s automated systems are still working, even though no one is on hand at the Menlo Park lab to maintain them.
“We will hope that the USGS computers that collect the data and forward it to us for processing will continue to do the work,” said Hellweg. “We’ve been really lucky that in fact they have continued to do their work for almost 4 weeks now in the government shutdown.”
It should be noted that department policy does allow the USGS to call in staff in the event of a major incident.