A major earthquake in the Bay Area should not just concern San Francisco residents. The effects of such a disaster could extend throughout California.
A system of levees keeps San Francisco Bay's salt water from farmland and vital fresh water supplies -- which provide drinking water for some 20 million Californians all the way down to Los Angeles and San Diego. Many of the levees are already in serious disrepair, and in the event of a large earthquake, many could be expected to break.
A major quake on the Hayward fault in the East Bay could affect a 1,000-mile levee system and cause Katrina-level flooding for hundreds of miles, experts warn. Last year, one levee broke and 12,000 acres flooded.
However, a major earthquake researcher says California and the federal government are woefully unprepared for such an event.
"The state of California does not have one person in the Office of Emergency Services who is a full-time earthquake person, studying earthquakes, preparing responses," said Susan Tubbesing, director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.
She said the staff at the Federal Emergency Management Agency has also been drastically downsized. "There used to be 30 or 40 people on that part of FEMA, and today I think maybe there's five or six. And that's for the whole country," she said.
Despite all the warnings, a third of all Californians say they are not prepared for an earthquake. There are hopes those numbers will fall, in light of what Newsom says is a sad reality.
"I don't think I should be the one saying it, because I don't feel comfortable saying it," he said. "But you're on your own."
"The federal government's not going to come in and save the day within 24 minutes, let alone 24 hours," he said. "If we have an 8.2, 8.3 earthquake in San Francisco, people are going to need to be prepared for a minimum of 72 hours on their own."
The people of San Francisco are now just months away from an ominous 100-year anniversary. In April 1906, a magnitude-8.0 quake shook the city for one minute and left some 3,000 people dead and more than a quarter million others homeless.
Now more than ever, San Franciscans are looking back, and wondering what comes next.