Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Breaking News: 5.1 Earthquake hits Southern California

At 15:29 EDT (GMT -7) a 5.1 magnitude earthquake affected Southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

Buildings here are constructed to withstand earthquakes. Nevertheless, people at our location felt a strong shaking combined with a noisy rattling and vibrating of the walls (sort of like when a jet plane lands, but somewhat stronger and louder).

I was one of the first hundred to submit a report to the USGS's website. Based on my observations, the USGS website concluded my location had experienced a magnitude III on their scale of earthquake perception. Magnitude III is borderline between the weak the more serious magnitude IV scale.

Initially, the USGS thought the Earthquake had was centered near Andrews Air Force Base, but it was clear from looking at the website that most of the reports were coming in further south, near San Diego. People in LA were reporting experience II-III, while San Diego was feeling a III-IV.

The Earthquake was actually centered 56 miles SW of Imperial Beach, San Diego County, California, USA, a position under the Pacific Ocean actually south of the US-Mexico border (so may have been felt more strongly in Baja California, Mexico).

A 5.1 magnitude Earthquake, it is likely to make the USGS' top ten list of the most felt earthquakes in recent memory. (Southern California is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.). So far, however, it appears to have caused little or no damage, and the news networks have yet to pick it up (hence there is no link yet).

Incidentally, a 4.5 magnitude is considered serious enough to do damage in a major metropolitan area if it is centered in downtown area. A 5.1 magnitude is about three times stronger than a 4.5, although in this case it was centered 50 miles away from the major city (San Diego) out under the Pacific Ocean.

Having lived on the East Coast prior to coming to California, I've always wondered how these frequent "minor" earth impact people's psychology. This is the second earthquake in about two years that people here have been able to feel. A previous earthquake in the area was in 4.x range, although centered far out in a less populated area. It felt like the foot massage in the California milk commericals that they run out here that make fun of earthquakes. Today's quake, although again far away from population locations, was 10x stronger than that earlier quake, so I guess it felt 10x stronger than a foot massage. It's nice getting a free foot massage every so often, as long as Nature keeps the intensity down....