There is a misconception that everything west of the San Andreas Fault is going to fall off into the Pacific Ocean. The reality is that the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate are actually passing each other. It is estimated that in several billion years Los Angeles will eventually have snow on a regular basis because it will have actually moved to Canada.
Fortunately for us, we won't be around to see it.
But it certainly does bring up an interesting topic -- as does Digidave's proposal.
In the eight or so years that I have lived in the High Desert of California, I have felt all of one earthquake. It was a rather interesting phenomenon because it felt like my whole house lifted then dropped. No more than probably 1/16th of an inch, but that's what it felt like. It was accompanied by a loud boom, which at first I thought was some flyboy out of Edwards going supersonic south of Highway 58.
My reaction to earthquakes is typical of an ex-patriated Kansan living in California. I'd rather face an F-5 tornado than a 5.0 earthquake -- never mind dealing with "The Big One". Californians all gang up on me saying they'd rather have the earthquake. Personally, I like knowing that a disaster is bearing down on me with a force equivalent to the hand of God himself. There are safe hiding places in tornadoes. In an earthquake, dey ain't any!
In a tornado, you can find shelter in a basement of your house, or a building -- BUT NEVER UNDER A HIGHWAY OVERPASS (that's for those of you still living in tornado alley but haven't figured out yet that hiding under an overpass is a bad idea. You'd have better luck standing in a open field).
In an earthquake, no place is safe. Every building around you is susceptible to falling right on your head. Overpasses and bridges can collapse right out from under you leaving your last moments on earth reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote going off a cliff -- your head remains while your body drops to your untimely demise below and your neck stretches the distance between the two. The idea of being pulverized into a grease spot under a pile of what used to be the connector bridge between Interstates 10 and 5 is not my idea of California Dreamin'.
Now I mentioned before that I'd experienced only one earthquake since moving to the High Desert. That can be misleading because I have actually experienced more than that. But only one has been in the High Desert. The rest were elsewhere. The very first one I felt was the Hector Mine/Joshua Tree earthquake in mid-1999. It was somewhere around 3:00 in the morning and my wife woke me up to tell me we were having an earthquake. The bed was rocking in a gentle waving motion back and forth. After about 2-3 minutes, it stopped. I muttered something about the damned ground in California moving for no reason and went back to sleep. We were living in Pasadena at the time and the epicenter was near Joshua Tree National Forest in the Palm Springs area. Yes, I did feel that one and that's quite a distance for the ground to roll.
My next experience was the Fountain Valley quake -- also in 1999. I was working in Costa Mesa and that one felt like someone had slammed one of the fire doors in our building. The building vibrated, my 21" CRT computer monitor shook and it was over. It was accompanied by a "whoosh" sound. Again, I blew it off by saying, "Is that the best you can do?"
Then came the one near Long Beach when I was working in Long Beach. That was about four years ago and there was some mild shaking. It lasted long enough that I actually became quite concerned being on the fourth floor of a seven story office building near the mouth of the Los Angeles River. There was a rumbling sound in the building, but not very loud. When it was over, I was a little unnerved, but got over it. It reminded me that I prefer tornadoes over earthquakes.
As for "The Big One", I can only say this: given the tendency of earthquakes to wreak havoc everywhere, the safest place to be when The Big One hits is France. Y'all might want to consider making your reservations now, I hear France isn't a very big place and might have trouble accomodating a sudden influx of 12-20 million Southern Californians.
After living here for over 10 years, I'm thoroughly convinced that Los Angeles is no where near ready for The Big One. I'm afraid that when it hits, the 1906 San Francisco or the 1989 Loma Prieta quakes are gonna look like opening acts. Remember "The Great Shake Out" last November? Sorry, folks, but that was a joke. It was predetermined when it would "hit" and everyone knew in the back of their heads it was only a drill. When The Big One hits LA, people are going to panic and nothing will go as planned. Will LA survive The Big One? Probably but not without serious scars and chaos for a couple of days while aftershocks rumble through the basin. I guarantee anyone who commutes more then five miles to work won't be going to work for a while.