Since Monday morning at 4 a.m. until noon on Friday, there have been at least 290 earthquakes that had shaken the Salton Sea in California. Most of these were extremely weak quakes ranging from magnitude 1.4 to 4.3, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Officials say 17 were greater than a magnitude-3 and 97 were greater than a magnitude-2 and had depths between 2.5 to 5.5 miles.
The scary part is that this seismic activity is happening near the southernmost tip of the infamous San Andreas Fault. The earthquakes are disturbing cross-faults which could be adding stress to the San Andreas Fault. Some scientists believe these mini quakes could trigger a much more lethal and devastating earthquake.
A big fear is that the rupturing of the southern portion of the San Andreas fault could cause a domino effect along the entire stretch, cracking the fault from Imperial County through to Los Angeles County. Another possibility is that the Salton Sea swarm could cause the nearby San Jacinto fault system to rupture, which would in turn trigger the collapse of the San Andreas Fault.
This is only the third time in that this area has had a swarm of earthquakes to erupt. Previous occurrences happened in 2001 and 2009, and there were no massive earthquakes following.
“Swarm-like activity in this region has occurred in the past, so this week’s activity, in and of itself, is not necessarily cause for alarm,” the USGS said.
Just because the tremors have been rather dormant since Friday afternoon does not mean that California is out of danger yet. The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) issued an earthquake advisory warning residents and officials in Ventura, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, Kern and Imperial counties. The warning states that there was a greater possibility of a major earthquake now through Oct. 4.
The chance of a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake happening along the Southern San Andreas Fault is as high as 1 in 100 and as low as 1 in 3,000. That is not a reason to panic whatsoever, especially with such low probabilities of happening, but you play the Powerball with the ridiculous chances of 1 in 292 million. On the plus side, the likelihood of it happening decreases with each passing day.
The last San Andreas Fault quake that was over a magnitude 7 was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake where at least 3,000 people died from a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Models predict an earthquake across the southern half of California with a magnitude around 7.8 would cause an estimated 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, and over $200 billion in damage. Scientists say that quakes occur every 150 to 200 years.
In May, Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, said that the San Andreas Fault is “locked, loaded, and ready to go.”
Until October 4, it might be a good idea to be prepared and maybe have The Rock’s phone number just in case.