Bob Bea’s work as a forensic engineer is erie, detective-like, sort of a dark art.
But make no mistake about it, the UC Berkeley professor is in the prevention business, he never lets a good disaster go to waste.
“If I could understand what was making them go bad, then I could bring that understanding back to what I do and stop the damn things,” Bea told FOX40.
Bea has been dissecting every high-profile calamity the past few decades. From the sinking of the Exxon Valdez in 1989, to the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia explosion, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the sinking of Deepwater Horizon in 2010.
Now at age 76, he’s not only has given more than 50 years of his life to disasters, he’s given a part of himself too. During his work on Katrina, while he pulled body after body from homes, Bea contracted a mold infection in his lungs that eventually led to his speech impediment.
His grim expertise has led him to believe where the next big disaster will take place – the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and levee system.
“The clock keep ticking. We keep hoping it won’t happen, and hope is no strategy for success in this problem,” Bea said.
And Bea thinks when it happens it could be bigger than the devastation of Katrina.
The reasons why: The 150-year old levee system protecting the delta from the San Francisco Bay is decrepit and leaking, and a $750 million dollar levee modernization plan back in 2010 was shelved.
Bea isn’t just saying the devastation will be greater in terms a deaths, which by his estimation could be in the thousands. But it would also cripple the State, which is now the 9th largest economy in the world.
“What we see happening in our California delta infrastructure is clearly unacceptable,” Bea said.