Earthquake Watch: Wednesday’s Quake a Result of the San Jacinto Fault

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“Did you feel that?” was the question of the day this past Wednesday, when a magnitude 5.4 earthquake rumbled through San Diego County, forcing high-rises, as well as residents’ minds, to tremble with foreboding. The shaker originated 7.3 miles deep about 13 miles northwest of Boreggo Springs and 28 miles South of Palm Springs at 4:53 p.m., rattling windows and causing shockwaves to travel as far North as the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Although the words “San Andreas Fault” have long struck terror into the hearts and minds of Southern Californians, USGS seismologists have confirmed that Wednesday’s temblor was not the result of activity on the San Andreas or an aftershock from Easter Sunday’s 7.2 Mexicali quake, but rather an isolated quake on the Coyote Creek strand of the strike-slip San Jacinto fault line—Southern California’s largest and most active seismic system. The 130 mile-long system winds through heavily populated areas of Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, and San Bernardino counties, making it a potentially dangerous due to the amounts of havoc it could wreak should an earthquake of large magnitude break out along its borders.

An event which, according to San Diego State University seismologist and San Jacinto specialist Tom Rockwell, is only too possible. In an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune, Rockwell explained, “We do know that the San Jacinto fault zone is capable of large earthquakes, and that segments of the fault are due for moderate to large earthquakes.” Rockwell continued to state that the San Jacinto is capable of producing a magnitude 6.9 temblor, a magnitude which has the potential to devastate the urban areas the system runs through.

So while Wednesday’s 5.4 quake had its epicenter in a relatively remote area of East San Diego County, sparing Southern California and producing little to no damage, we may not always be so lucky. Assemble the earthquake kits and bring on the bottled water San Diego—it could be a bumpy ride.

Photo from gruntzooki via flickr


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