Friday, January 17, 2014

Remember the Last (Slightly) Damaging Earthquake in L.A.?

LOS ANGELES - Remember the last earthquake that did any sort of damage in Los Angeles? It is not the one you are probably thinking about.

On this 20th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake many people are sharing the stories of where they were the the ground wobbled like mad at 4:31 a.m. Unsurprisingly the common answer to the question of, "Where were you with the earthquake happen?" is, "I was in my bed sleeping."

If you were to ask when was the last damaging earthquake in L.A. you would likely be told it was the 1994 disaster with good reason, but, as we look over L.A.'s very recent earthquake past over the last ten years, there was a much less damaging earthquake in L.A. seven years later.

Though it was not a very big jolt it was the first earthquake after Northridge to cause any sort of damage in L.A. proper, and the largest earthquake to occur in the L.A. basin since the Northridge Earthquake and its aftershocks. Like many typical "garden variety" jolts before it this quake was quickly forgotten, but given the date this particular earthquake occurred this shaker was probably thrown down the memory hole quicker than usual.

On September 9, 2001 a magnitude 4.2 earthquake occurred in West Hollywood at 4:59 p.m., and as Dr. Egill Hauksson and Dr. Kate Hutton at the California Institution of Technology, along with Dr. Lucy Jones of the United States Geological Survey report, this earthquake may have be associated with the north end of the Newport-Inglewood Fault, which was the cause of the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake.

Of course with an earthquake of this size you would not expect any sort of major damage, and there was no major damage. However one window in the West L.A. area shattered, but luckily nobody was hurt. As well there were dishes that broke and items that flew off the shelves.

As you see the date of this quake no doubt just two days later this jolt would be all but forgotten. A quake of this size under a very populated area is always enough to get the nerves up, and it is interesting to think what the reaction would have been had this M4.2 quake occurred two days later on September 11, 2001, or frankly just anytime later that week.  

After that the next real notable shaker in L.A. proper would not be until nearly eight years later on May 17, 2009, which a M4.7 with an epicenter about 3 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport occurred at 8:39 p.m., otherwise called the Inglewood Earthquake. This quake was felt by a lot of people throughout Southern California, including Ventura and San Diego Counties, and had the type of damage you would expect from this kind of jolt, such as items falling off shelves. One window of a business was reportedly shattered in Long Beach. Like the West Hollywood shock in 2001 seismologists believe this too was an act of the Newport-Inglewood Fault.  

Now the last real damaging earthquake of any sort in Southern California was the 2008 M5.4 Chino Hills Earthquake, which caused a lot of property damage in the western Inland Empire and Pomona Valley areas. This was also the last magnitude 5-plus earthquake to occur in the metro L.A. area.

The last earthquake of magnitude 7-plus to hit the general region was the M7.2 2010 Sierra El Mayor Earthquake located south of Mexicali in Baja California, Mexico and felt throughout much of Southern California on Easter Day. 

It should be noted that the last magnitude 7 earthquake in Southern California was the M7.1 1999 Hector Mine Earthquake, which, luckily, had an epicenter in the rural San Bernardino County desert about 47 miles east-southeast of Barstow.

It has been said that L.A. and Southern California has been lucky no major earthquake has occurred right under its populated areas in 20 years, but if you spend any time at the gambling tables in Las Vegas you know luck has a way of running out sooner rather than later.

So on this anniversary take the time and prepare yourself for the next disaster.

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