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The Bay Area in California is one of the biggest earthquake hot spots in the United States, as three major fault lines run through the area. Earthquakes in the Bay Area happen often, but they usually are gentle enough that they aren’t extremely dangerous or damaging. Last week, the Bay Area saw one earthquake that was stronger than any the area has had in a while, so read on below to learn how serious it was.
What magnitude was the earthquake?
Earthquake magnitude is measured from 1 to 10.6 using a scale called the Moment Magnitude scale. Typically, earthquakes under a 3 on the scale can’t be felt by humans and are only registered using seismographs. Earthquakes from 3 up to 5.5 or 6 on the scale can be felt by some people but will cause little or no real damage, and earthquakes higher than this can cause actual damage to housing and infrastructure.
The strongest earthquake in the Bay Area last week registered at a 5.1 on the scale. This made it the most intense earthquake in the area since the 6.0 magnitude Napa earthquake in 2016. The Napa earthquake struck the north side of the Bay Area, damaging many buildings and injuring over 200 people. No deaths were caused by the Napa earthquake. The last time an earthquake caused a death in California was in another Napa county earthquake in 2014.
Was any damage caused?
An earthquake of this magnitude can be damaging in areas where infrastructure isn’t prepared to handle it, but California is well adjusted to earthquakes, and building practices there take the threat of earthquakes into account. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5 is typically not expected to cause any damage in the Bay Area, while a magnitude of 6 usually means localized damage close to where the earthquake occurred, and a magnitude of 7 can cause widespread damage throughout the Bay Area.
As expected, there were no damage reports following the earthquake last Tuesday. More than 18,000 people reported feeling the quake to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), but local fire and police departments reportedly received no calls for assistance to take care of damage or emergency situations caused by the quake.
How common are earthquakes of this size?
Earthquakes of this magnitude are surprisingly common, as there were 2,047 reported earthquakes with magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.9 last year. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) records over 20,000 earthquakes each year. so roughly 10 percent of all recorded earthquakes each year fall into this general range.
Earthquakes are common in the Bay Area and California in general, due to the large number of fault lines that run through the area. The Bay Area has three major fault lines that run directly through it: the San Andreas, Hayward-Rodgers Creek, and Calaveras faults. The Calaveras fault seems to have been the source of this particular earthquake.