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America Overdue for a Catastrophic Earthquake?

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 15, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The looming question here in America, could we be next? In this week's issue of Newsweek magazine, my next guest predicts the worst earthquake is yet to come. Joining me now to explain this is the author of "Krakatoa" Simon Winchester.

Sir, welcome to the program, thank you. Now we all know about the earthquake in San Francisco and we all know about the San Andreas fault line. When you talk about the worst is yet to come, what do you mean?

SIMON WINCHESTER, "KRAKATOA" AUTHOR: Well, I didn't really mean the San Andreas. I mean, the San Andreas is pretty bad, but let me put it like this. If the pacific plate is roughly diamond shaped, we've had an event now in Chile where my thumb is. We've had an event in New Zealand of February 22. We had a serious event now in Japan.

The one part that we haven't had an event is the northeast of the Pacific, which is the northwest of America. There are three dangerous faults there, which haven't ruptured for many, many years. The San Andreas, which you mentioned, which runs essentially under the land and which last ruptured in 1906 causing the major and legendary San Francisco earthquake. There's the Haywood fault, which runs underneath Berkley and Oakland, which hasn't equally ruptured for a very long time.

But much more dangerous is almost invisible fault, which is generally not spoken about in America these days called the Cascadia fault, which runs under the sea. It's 1,300 miles long and it runs from north of Vancouver Island down the west coast of Canada, west coast of Washington and Oregon and northern California terminating in Mendocino. If that were to rupture, that unlike the San Andreas would cause tsunamis.

HANNITY: As you mentioned New Zealand and you mentioned Japan -- it has been a long time since we've had with quakes along these faults you are talking about here. Could those quakes, and again, I'm not an expert, please forgive my ignorance. Could they trigger the third leg of that?

WINCHESTER: Well, trigger is the word and it's the word that I used in the Newsweek article. It has to be said, some geologists say there's no evidence of triggering. It has to be said. I don't want to get too technical. Scientists are beginning to notice that events do trigger other events far away.

A classic example is when there are earthquakes in Alaska, all the geysers in the Yellowstone National Park, which as you know, spout every 52 minutes, suddenly start spouting faster. You think why is that happening? Equally, just after the major Kashmir quake a couple years ago, there was the huge quake in western China, not so far away.

HANNITY: You are saying this is likely to happen sooner than later?

WINCHESTER: I believe these things are linked and we are facing the likelihood. I mean, we're talking about geological times. It may not be for many years, but the U.S. Geological Survey is beginning to say the probability of the Haywood fault under Oakland, 60 percent within the next 25 years. San Andreas is even greater.

HANNITY: And Cascadia, what would the impact be? I mean, if we're talking about at the ocean. You're looking at a tsunami --

WINCHESTER: We are looking at a very big tsunami. I mean, not just a tsunami. I mean, the last time 250 years ago, there were no people essentially living, other than native people of course who didn't keep written records, but that tsunami went to Japan. It struck the east coast of Japan much where today's tragedy is with huge ferocity.

We're talking about waves if the Cascadia fault ruptured in a major way, we're talking about waves not 30 feet high like Sendai, but the same sort of scale that attacked Krakatoa in --

HANNITY: How many miles in and how big would these waves be?

WINCHESTER: Well, the last record suggested -- 250 years ago records weren't particularly good -- 100 feet high going many, many miles in shore. So that would be very dangerous.

HANNITY: We're talking about major populated areas here.

WINCHESTER: You really are.

HANNITY: You're talking about a death toll unprecedented?

WINCHESTER: Well, it could very well be. I mean, there are certain differences --

HANNITY: Potential.

WINCHESTER: That's the potential. I don't want to be too much fear- mongering, but people need to prepare and need to be aware this -- if you choose to live in beautiful parts of the world you have to remember what makes the beauty can also take away your life.

HANNITY: All right, thank you. Pretty frightening, but hopefully not realistic scenario.

WINCHESTER: I hope you're right.

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