Researchers think the Big One could hit LA soon

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

earthquake
A large enough earthquake from the Puente Hills Fault could be extremely dangerous.

This past Friday, the greater Los Angeles area experienced a 5.1 magnitude earthquake that lasted for at least 30 seconds and was followed by dozens of aftershocks. Fortunately, there were no injuries and very minimal damage. However, this is the third quake to occur this month, and researchers are scared that a more destructive one is coming soon.

Seismologists (earthquake scientists) are sure that the recent quake came from the Puente Hills Fault – a 25-mile-long fracture beneath the Puente Hills area that stretches all the way to Griffith Park. This fault is different from the San Andreas Fault, which is an 810-mile-long fracture in the Earth’s crust running through the state of California.

For decades now, experts have predicted a mega destructive earthquake called the Big One, that would originate from the larger fault. After Friday’s rattle, however, their attention is focused on Puente Hills. Unlike the vertical San Andreas Fault, the Puente Hills Fault runs horizontally. This positioning causes shakes to cover a large area that includes the heavily-populated, building-filled region of downtown Los Angeles, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley, and Hollywood.

What worsens the situation is the fact that these areas are built over soft soil that shakes like jelly, so the ripples are actually amplified! Couple this with the fact that many buildings are old and made out of vulnerable concrete, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

According to recent estimates, there is a 99% chance that an earthquake major enough to be called the Big One will occur within the next 30 years. Scientists are working on ways to predict earthquakes, but for now, there is no guaranteed way to know when they’ll hit. The Puente Hill Fault may not be as long as that of the San Andreas Fault, but we would be wise to remember: big things come in small packages.

Featured image courtesy of BrianLiao on Wikimedia. Image of earthquake graph courtesy of neesit on YouTube.