Thursday, August 17, 2006

quake consequences

Not much news on this here, even though it's not very far away. Over the last month there has been a spate of small earthquakes in NE Ohio. Here is news about one just the other day. That's kind of interesting in itself. It reminds me of a a factoid I talk about when teaching labor economics. There were some unexpected results of an earthquake in NW Pennsylvania a few years ago. In 1998 there was a moderate earthquake around Jamestown, PA near Pymuntang Lake.. or about 100 miles NNW of Pittsburgh. It was actually the largest earthquake ever recorded in Pennsylvania, though it did not affect Pittsburgh much at all.. I don't think anyone was hurt, but one big result was that in some places the water table was affected. I am not a geologist, but as I understand it, the quake caused some water tables to drain away. So all of a sudden there was a rash of homes and businesses which were dependent on wells that went dry. The solution is usually to re-drill the wells to hit the water table at greater depths. It was briefly kind of a problem in that there were only so many skilled well-drillers out there and all of a sudden there was a big spot-shortage of these workers. These guys were being pulled out of retirement and from far away to come in and redrill the local wells. It's a great example to show how, in the short run at least, labor markets are pretty specialized for many skills/workers. At the same time, it would not have made sense to start training too many more well-drillers becasue it was a very short term phenomenon for the most part.


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