As the Huffington Post wrote this past weekend, “California was hit by back-to-back earthquakes over the Fourth of July holiday. On Thursday, a 6.4 magnitude quake struck near a small, rural town in Southern California called Ridgecrest, about 150 miles from Los Angeles. The next day, a larger 7.1 magnitude temblor hit the same area and was felt by millions across the region, from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles down to Mexico and eastward to Las Vegas.”
Is the Big One Next?: Scientists say not so fast. The 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes last week were not related and not precursors to the Big One.
What’s At Fault? In California, the San Andreas fault line is the primary fault line that runs the length of the state and forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate (faults around Ridgecrest are part of the larger San Andreas system). As the New York Times explained, the San Andreas runs near heavily populated areas and is considered the biggest seismic threat to California. Related cracks in the earth, like the Hayward fault that runs through Oakland and Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area, are also considered major threats.”
How to Prepare: If you live along the West Coast (or plan on visiting) make sure you know what to do if a big quake occurs. Additionally, as CNN reported, earlier this year, KPCC, a public radio station in Southern California, released a new podcast titled “The Big One: Your Survival Guide,” aimed at coaching Californians to prepare for a potentially devastating earthquake.
Also, important to note, while the city of Los Angeles does have a public app that’s supposed to warn residents of impending earthquakes, ShakeAlert didn’t manage to send out any early warnings for the two recent quakes.
Why This Matters: The New York Times put it best, “navigating life in California means making peace with Mother Nature. Wildfires and mudslides are yearly events, made worse in recent years amid climate change. But Californians live in constant awareness, if not outright fear, of the possibility of a devastating earthquake — the “Big One,” as everyone says.” Growing up my (Miro’s) classmates were generally too young to remember big quakes like Loma Prieta or Northridge in detail but the anecdotes were passed along to us to instill a healthy sense of fear and spur preparedness. Earthquakes are terrifying because humans have no control over them, no means to truly predict them or stop them and for folks living near fault lines, they live their lives in anticipation of an impending natural disaster which scientists say is almost certain to occur.