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California: The Land of Death by Mother Nature?
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Sawyer - our granddaughter's boyfriend who heralds from North Dakota - has a friend who wants to visit him but is leery to do so.

Why? The friend is concerned about how often we have earthquakes. Sawyer asked me how often we have them, I said three a day off the top of my head. I was wrong. We have about 100 a day according to the Cal Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. Only a fraction can be felt, though.

Sawyer's friend is not the first person - and won't be the last - who is a little concerned that when they visit the Golden State that the entire thing will just shake and slide into the Pacific Ocean. Credit Hollywood plus the national news for convincing half of America that California is the modern-day Atlantis in waiting.

Since 1875, California has recorded 3,520 deaths from quakes. The rest of the country has had 752 deaths from quakes including 32 since 1935 in North Dakota's neighbor to the west. In deaths per 1,000 you're three times more likely to get killed in a quake in California than Montana.

Before you start thinking California is the land of death consider this: There have been 15,502 recorded deaths in the United States from tornadoes since 1875. How many of them happened in California? It's zilch as in nada.

Hurricanes, in case you're wondering, have killed 6,575 people on the mainland since 1875. The number of hurricane dead in California? Try zero.

Forces of Mother Nature have killed 22,829 people elsewhere in the United States since 1875 while 3,520 people died in California from her fury during the same time period. That's based on figures gleaned from government sites. The bottom line is you have just over six times a greater chance of being killed by Mother Nature in the 47 other continental United States than you do in California.

No one gets concerned about volcanoes. We have two - Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen - that are relatively active. One good eruption in the Age of Twitter that sends lava toward Redding and the hype it would create and California will rival Krakatoa or Vesuvius in the minds of many who live east of the Rockies.

They do, however, freak out about sharks. Excluding Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico there have been 42 confirmed shark deaths in United States waters. Yes, just over a third or 13 of them were along the California coast. But none of them happened to people who were just minding their own business. They were swimming or boarding in the ocean.

California as a death trap is really overrated also when it comes to heat-related deaths. When was the last time you heard people dying in a heat wave in such numbers that the coroner had to rent refrigeration trucks as they did a decade ago in the heart of Chicago Land - Cook County?

We may bust the 100-degree mark but our humidity is significantly lower.

But what about the desert, you ask? Yes, people die in the desert. Most of late have been people who have no idea what the heck they are dealing with such as the European tourists who wandered off the trails in Joshua Tree National Park without any water, provisions or bothering to tell anyone where they were going.

Mother Nature may not kill you but what about gangs?

You might be interested to know the 2010 murder rate in California was the 21st highest out of 50 states. Law-abiding Arizona (gun) smoked California with 6.4 deaths per 1,000 compared to 4.9 for California. And if it is a violent death at the hands of another you're concerned about you may want to stay away from Louisiana with the national leading death rate of 11.2 per 1,000. Louisiana might arguably be the deadliest state of them all as they also have hurricanes and tornadoes plus what was considered the most violent quakes of all time in the United States - the four New Madrid shakers - in 1811 to 1812 - were centered in the heart of the Louisiana territory.

Frankly, I'd rather take my chances in a major quake in San Francisco or the East Bay with California's earthquake building standards than a major earthquake any day in New Orleans or St. Louis.

As far as driving is concerned California has the seventh lowest accident rate per 1,000 residents in the country.

Having said that it could have a lot to do with the fact it's tough to speed in bumper to bumper traffic although high speed transportation already does exist between northern and southern California. It's called Interstate 5.

Well, so much for California being the death state.

Now if we can convince people that just because you reside in California doesn't mean you live on the ocean, you can hang ten, have blonde hair, and know a couple dozen movie stars on a first name basis.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.