A Massive 8.0 Earthquake in California Could Happen Well Within Our Lifetimes

A Massive 8.0 Earthquake in California Could Happen Well Within Our Lifetimes
San Andreas/Warner Bros. Pictures

The good news is that the chance of a Northridge-style, 6.7 earthquake in the next 30 years has gone down 30 percent since the U.S. Geological Survey last assessed our chances of experiencing large temblors in the decades to come. That was in 2008.

The bad news is that the latest Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast by the USGS concludes that "the estimate for the likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7 percent" in 2008 to 7.0 percent today.

And while the chance of a 6.7 has decreased, it's still going to happen: USGS researchers still say there's a 93 percent chance one will strike Southern California in the next three decades.

Keep in mind that the magnitude 6.7 Northridge quake caused an estimated $49 million in damage, killed nearly 60 people and remains one of the costliest natural disasters in American history.

Then there's that less likely but still possible 8.0.

In 2008 the USGS estimated what a 7.8 shaker along the San Andreas Fault in the California desert would do to Southern California: It would result in possibly 1,800 dead, as many as 50,000 injured, 300,000 damaged buildings, 1,600 fires and more than $200 billion in damage.

Sounds like fun. Sounds like a Hollywood movie called San Andreas (coming to a concrete-reinforced theater near you this summer).

Lead author and USGS scientist Ned Field:

The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously. This is a significant advancement in terms of representing a broader range of earthquakes throughout California’s complex fault system.

Yep. As you've heard before, Mother Earth has been too quiet down below, and we're overdue for a good shake-up. The thing is, we should be prepared: water, flashlights, food, batteries  —all that good stuff. Your iPhone isn't going to do you a lot of good if there's no power, Wi-Fi or data networks.

So think about it. Or listen to this guy, Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center:

We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century. But we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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