California earthquake warning: Professor says imminent Big One ‘not impossible’

Independence Day celebrations in Ridgecrest, southern California, were cut short last Thursday afternoon after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck. A second earthquake struck Ridgecrest on July 5, which had a magnitude of 5.4, followed by a huge magnitude 7.1 quake just 16 hours later. And now concerns are growing the long-overdue Big One could finally strike the San Andreas fault, which slices through 800 miles of the California coastline from Eureka to San Bernardino.

Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL, warned a 7.5 magnitude quake could hit, costing the US $250billion.

He said a Big One hitting Los Angeles was “not impossible” but still unlikely.

He told “While not impossible, I think that the chances of an imminent ‘big one’ striking LA are fairly slim, despite the recent Ridgecrest quake.

“Of course, aftershocks capable of affecting LA are possible and these may be magnitude 6 or even bigger.

“In the longer term, however, a major quake will score a direct hit on LA.

“The worst case is probably a magnitude 7.5 on the Puente Hills Fault (in the LA Basin), which is thought capable of taking up to 18,000 lives and costing US$250 billion.

“Such events, however, are very infrequent and have return periods of thousands of years.”

The last quake of that scale to hit California before that was a magnitude 6 quake which struck Napa in August 2014.

Scientists have recorded more than 30,000 quakes in the area around the state’s Searles Valley since July 4.

Experts do not know when exactly the big one will hit California, but they are expecting it.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist from Caltech, does not believe the area would see another quake as bad as a 7.1.

She told the LA Times that she couldn’t remember any pattern of quakes which a 7.1 earthquake came after a 6.4.

Ms Jones said: “It is clearly a very energetic sequence, so there’s no reason to think we can’t have more large earthquakes.

“One should always be preparing for a big one.”

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