An imminent earthquake warning is in effect for LA residents through Tuesday, multiple news outlets have reported. ABC in conjunction with the Associated Press references a story released Friday in the Orange County Register. The publication explains that this warning follows a group of small temblors (earthquakes) beneath the Salton Sea, which borders the San Andreas fault, the same tectonic fault that scientists watch for seismic activity in order to warn LA and Southern California residents of potential earthquakes.
In terms of the odds of a high magnitude earthquake (in this case, 7.0 or higher on the Richter scale), scientists have estimated the probability of a seismic event occurring on the southern San Andreas as high as 1 in 100 and as low as 1 in 3,000.
The last two major earthquakes in California occurred in 2014, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The Los Angeles quake occurred on March 28 of that year, with few injuries and about $10.8 million in damages. The other major 2014 quake occurred on August 24 in the North Bay area (near San Francisco). This earthquake was much more severe, with one death, about 200 injuries, and damages that approached $1 billion.
Early warning systems provided by American scientists are the best line of defense for people who reside in earthquake zones. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers information on earthquake preparation (Before, During, and After) on their ready.gov website. Below is a list of guidelines to follow before an earthquake from this site:
- Look around places where you spend time. Identify safe places, such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office, or school so that when the shaking starts, you Drop to the ground, Cover your head and neck with your arms, and if a safer place is nearby, crawl to it and Hold On.
- Practice how to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!”
- To react quickly you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake.
- Before an earthquake occurs, secure items that could fall and cause injuries (e.g., bookshelves, mirrors, light fixtures).
- Store critical supplies (e.g., water, medication) and documents.
- Plan how you will communicate with family members, including multiple methods by making a family emergency communication plan.
- When choosing your home or business, check if the building is earthquake resistant per local building codes.
Morgan Page, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has told Fox affiliate KTTV that earthquakes along the San Andreas fault-line typically occur every 300 years on average. However, the southern end of the fault hasn’t ruptured since 1690. This means 326 years of building pressure in proximity to the city of Los Angeles, putting the LA metropolitan area and its residents at severe risk for a major earthquake.
If a major earthquake at the southern end of the San Andreas does not occur imminently (by Tuesday as communicated in the warning), the risk for a major event in the near future is still very high. In addition, Page relays that it is a common misconception that small earthquakes relieve pressure and lessen the severity of a large tremor; Page believes that these small rumbles can in fact increase the severity of a major earthquake.
“California is earthquake country,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of California’s Office of Emergency Services told the Orange County Register in an interview. “We must always be prepared and not let our guard down.”
The eventual goal is to provide Californians with alerts on their cell phones to provide as much advance warning as possible before an earthquake; it is advance warning systems that will allow populations at risk for an earthquake to make proper preparations to minimize personal injury and property damage.
[Featured image by Manakin/iStock]