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May 26, 2018

The hardest part of preparing for disasters is overcoming human nature

The worst disaster in California’s history wasn’t an earthquake, or a fire, or a drought — it was a flood that killed thousands, wiped out mines and ranches, and submerged the state capital, Sacramento. For 43 days, starting in December 1861, California was inundated.

Today, hardly anyone thinks about the floodwaters that turned California’s Central Valley into a vast lake — but it will happen again. “It’s not a question of if, but when,” writes seismologist and disaster expert Lucy Jones in her new book, The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them). That’s why it’s key for us to know about the disasters in our history, so that we’re not doomed to repeat them on what will certainly be a much larger...

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