On July 4, Independence Day, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Southern California at 10:33 a.m. local time. Its epicenter was 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and was felt from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on California's Pacific coast. Power lines fell, roads cracked, fires broke out, and first responders were out in force handling minor injuries. Geophysicist Professor John Rundle said while there was significant damage in Ridgecrest, a city that lies southwest of the epicenter, it was “fortunate the quake had happened far away from major population centres.”
Shortly after the quake, spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Brad Alexander, warned: "This may not be over. There could be more earthquakes happening in the area and anyone listening that's in that region should be prepared to drop, cover and hold on.”
Alexander was right--it was not over--as tremors continued into Friday, with a 4:15 a.m. local time tremor measuring 5.4. On the evening of July 5, at 8:19 local time, another more powerful 7.1 quake occurred about 125 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It was 11 times more energetic than the July 4th quake, and was the strongest one in the region since the 7.1 magnitude Hector Mine earthquake in 1999.
While the epicenters of both earthquakes were far enough away from major metropolitan areas, damage did occur due to the intense shaking. Ridgecrest was hit the hardest because it was so close to the epicenter, with the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital evacuated, gas lines breaking, and first responders working to put out fires. The quake also struck close to China Lake, the US Navy’s bomb testing facility, and caused, according to a spokesperson, "substantial damage,” which included water leaks, fires, and hazardous materials spills. Thankfully, there were no casualties or serious injuries reported.
These back-to-back earthquakes, and their aftershocks, have left residents in a state of fear and have everyone wondering…
Will the Big One hit next?
The Big One refers to a catastrophic earthquake that could occur along the San Andreas Fault, and is overdue according to geologists. The last time there was activity along the San Andreas Fault (which runs a little over 800 miles long) was 1906, when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake caused one of the deadliest earthquakes in US history--killing over 3,000 people and causing a fire that destroyed parts of San Francisco.
For those living along the fault, the Big One is always in the back of their minds. And now, with last week’s tremors, it’s top of mind. Newspaper headlines in the following days read: “California earthquake is a reminder that the Big One lurks” and “After two quakes shake California, are we getting close to the Big One?”
Those interviewed talked about living in fear, uncertain if another aftershock, or worse, was coming...and when. Sharon McNary of member station KPPC in Ridgecrest spoke with NPR the morning after the 7.1 earthquake and described seeing “lots and lots of chairs in front of houses, even some tents with mattresses inside them that people drug out of the house to give us a sense of greater safety.” Speaking to the mindset of the townspeople, she said, “It's almost like a two-one punch because the bigger one followed what they thought was the big one.”
However, last week’s 2 large earthquakes took place 93 miles away from the San Andreas Fault, and seismologists say they had nothing to do with the famous fault. Scientists aren’t quite sure which fault they occured on, but they speculate, based on the pattern of the quakes to date, they are happening on two small connected faults.
Will These Earthquakes Cause the Big One?
According to geologists and seismologists, the answer is No. Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the Geological Survey answered this question in a recent interview:
“Probably not because we’re too far away. The ability to trigger another earthquake is spatially defined. The most likely place to trigger it is at the same fault. As you go away with distance, it’s much less likely. It’s over 100 miles to the San Andreas from this location.”
However, she added, "One should always be preparing for a Big One.”
Dr. Jones also took to Twitter writing,
“If the daily probability of the Big One was 50/50, then the chance it would happen in the next week would be >99%. Real probability is about 2% per year, or 1/20,000 each day.”
According to the USGS, there’s a 72% chance that a 6.7 magnitude earthquake will hit the San Francisco Bay area in the next 30 years. And a 51% chance of an earthquake measuring magnitude 7 hitting the same area in the next 30 years.
For the Los Angeles area, it predicts a 60% chance that an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 and 46% chance of a magnitude 7 hitting the Los Angeles region in the next 30 years.
Geologic studies of the San Andreas Fault show that large earthquakes occur every 150 years or so along the southern part of the fault. The last earthquake to affect that area was in 1857, and, according to the USGS, “that section of the fault is considered a likely location for an earthquake within the next few decades. The San Francisco Bay area has a slightly lower potential for a great earthquake, as less than 100 years have passed since the great 1906 earthquake.”
Referring to the Big One, the USGS study also adds, “Such an earthquake may be preceded by an increase in seismicity for several years, possibly including several foreshocks of about magnitude 5 along the fault.”
Whether or not the Big One is looming in the near future remains to be known, and we don’t know where it will hit or how powerful it will be. But it is a possibility. And you need to be prepared.
Politicians, scientists, and researchers are encouraging people to prepare now. While it’s top of mind, you need to reinforce structures, make sure you have supplies, and create an emergency plan for your family. Because it’s not IF, it's WHEN the Big One will hit.
10 Ways to Prepare Before Another Earthquake Hits
We cannot predict when the Big One will happen along the San Andreas Fault or any other major US fault lines. But we do know that we cannot rely on or leave it up to government agencies to save us. We need to take our preparedness and survival into our own hands and be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Being prepared not only can save lives, but will also make life more comfortable after a destructive earthquake. Here are 10 things you can do today to get you and your family prepared...
- Have water purification methods handy: Make sure you’re stocked with several gallons of drinking water, as well as gravity-powered water purification solutions, germicidal tablets, and purification straws.
- Stock up on nonperishable food supplies: Should roads be impassable or stores closed, you don’t want to be caught without enough food for you and your family. Always have a supply of nutritious nonperishable foods, whether at home, work, or on the go. Make sure you have enough food for at least three months (FEMA’s recommendation of three days is sorely inadequate).
- Have portable battery chargers at home and work: While power might go out and communication lines fail, often computer networks aren’t affected. Make sure to have portable battery charge packs or solar-powered chargers handy to keep your phone and computers charged so you can still communicate with the outside world. Also, make sure you have a solar-powered radio or hand-crank radio so you can monitor local news reports should computer networks fail or power is out for weeks.
- Be prepared for loss of electricity: Although power was quickly restored following the California earthquakes, many times this isn’t the case and power outages can take days or weeks to restore. When this happens, having a backup generator to power essential electronics will come in handy.
- Stock up on medical supplies: Don’t rely on your ability to access supplies and doctors after a major quake. First aid kits will come in handy when treating minor injuries caused by items shifting and falling.
- Always have a whistle on hand: If you find yourself trapped, it’s always good to have a whistle so rescuers can locate you. Make sure you have enough whistles for the whole family, and that everyone knows where they are located.
- Have multiple light sources handy: Flashlights, lightsticks, and candles come in very handy when the power is out after an earthquake. Make sure you store them throughout the house and in your car, and everyone in your family knows where they are located. Be careful lighting candles due to gas leaks. Make sure your gas meter is turned off before striking a match.
- Make sure you have outdoor cooking tools and supplies: Should power go out or you’re forced to live outside for a while due to structural damage, having a way to cook food is critical. Have a charcoal grill, gas grill, or emergency stove, as well as cooking utensils, charcoal, matches, pots and pans stored in an area you can easily access. Our Ultimate Instafire Inferno Cooking Kit has everything you need all in one pack.
- Have copies of important documents stored in a safe place: Make copies of passports, driver’s licenses, insurance policies, and any other important paperwork and store them in a fireproof safe. Send copies to a trusted family member who lives outside your area. That way, if you’re unable to get to your documents, someone has them.
- Cash, cash, cash: Should the Big One hit or another earthquake that takes out power, disrupts supply lines, and closes commerce...you want to keep a stash of cash on hand.
Though scientists have given us warnings that the San Andreas Fault and other parts of the United States, such as the New Madrid Fault, are at risk for major earthquakes soon or within the next several decades, we still can’t predict what will happen or where we will be.
But when the next one hits, it will be too late to prepare.
Take the time now to stock up on supplies before it’s too late.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply