Local Professor Weighs In on Recent Seismic Activity in Southern California

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SACRAMENTO -- Friday night’s earthquake in Southern California was even stronger than the one that rocked Napa back in 2014.

So strong that some people all the way in the Sacramento area reported feeling the earth shake.

Two powerful earthquakes rocked the Ridgecrest area in less than 48 hours, shaking buildings, cracking foundations, and leaving entire communities on edge.

The first quake on Thursday registering at a 6.4 magnitude the strongest recorded quake to strike the region in 20 years.

Only to be topped by an 8 times stronger quake one day later at a magnitude of 7.1.

“Typically, major earthquakes like that have foreshocks and the small earthquake on July Fourth would have been classified as a foreshock of the 7.1 earthquake,” said John Rundle who is a distinguished professor of physics and earth science at UC Davis.

Rundle has studied earthquakes for years and says they're fairly difficult to predict.

He says Kern County and the surrounding area should expect a series of rolling aftershocks in the days and weeks ahead.

“The fact that we haven’t had a major earthquake like this in 20 years is fairly worrisome,” Rundle said.

The jolts from Friday's earthquake were so powerful that people all the way in Northern California reported feeling the shock waves -- something that Rundle says is not all that uncommon for a quake of this size.

“That’s not terribly unusual. It depends on what kind of ground the building was on. For example, if the building is a high rise that sits on loose ground, the shaking is amplified by that and people can easily feel it,” Rundle explained.

He also notes that older homes — typically built before 1960 are much more likely to rock and be unstable due to outdated building codes -- and newer structures are designed to better withstand an earthquake's ripple effects.

While Californians are rattled by the recent string of earthquakes, Rundle says residents should rest assured that the system is unlikely to affect fault lines outside the area or pose an even greater threat.

“The chances of a large earthquake happening are probably pretty small like 5 or 10 percent. The most unpleasant thing that could happen is if the fault that lies between the 1952 earthquake and this earthquake were to break into a very large earthquake, but that is very unlikely,” he said.

According to the USGS, residents as far north as Chico reported feeling the shock waves from the recent earthquakes in Southern California.

A reason why experts say -- all Californians should always be prepared for the possibility of an earthquake.

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