To scientists, it was a stunning example of the power of the "tectonic time bomb" known as the Hayward Fault. To city officials, it was a curb that desperately needed a fix. So in June, officials in Hayward, Calif., repaired a once-straight curb pulled apart over decades by seismic forces. Unbeknownst to workers, the curb—built directly on top of the fault line, running below Berkeley, Hayward, Oakland, and Fremont—had attracted visitors since at least 1971 when someone first noticed the forces at work. At last measurement, it was offset by about 8 inches, reports the National Post. It was "a kind of Holy Grail," as the Los Angeles Times puts it. "It was an icon," adds a post at Oakland Geology.
City officials had a different reaction. "Look at how offset the curb is. We need to fix that," says an assistant city manager, summing up the views of colleagues. She adds they had no idea that the curb—replaced by a wheelchair-accessible ramp—was so important to scientists. If they had, "we probably would have looked at it differently, or we would have tried to help them document it," she says. While there are other cracked or bent sidewalks and curbs along the fault line, none were quite as obvious as this curb. Its replacement, however, probably won't stay intact for long. "The fault will have its revenge," says a geologist with the US Geological Service. (These two combining faults could spell disaster for California.)