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Could Los Angeles Experience a Magnitude 9.6 Mega-quake?

Could Los Angeles Experience a Magnitude 9.6 Mega-quake?

Over the years, Hollywood has given us a multitude of disaster movies, including more than fifteen fictional movies about earthquakes.  They are typically extreme movies that show incredible destruction and devastation and, of course, they always have a hero or two to help save the day.  The 2015 movie, San Andreas, did not let us down.  The question that comes out of the Hollywood earthquake movies is this:  could that kind of over-the-top disaster really happen?

Fortunately for California, scientists have determined that a 9.6 magnitude earthquake will not happen along the San Andreas Fault.  While this well-known fault seems like a perfect candidate to cause a mega-quake as depicted in the recent movie, the reality is that it is not really long enough or deep enough to cause a quake with a magnitude 9.0 or greater.  Historically, however, California has experienced several devastating earthquakes near the San Andreas Fault that were measured at 7.9 magnitude.  After reviewing computer models, scientists have determined that the San Andreas Fault is actually capable of generating quakes with a magnitude of 8.3, but not any stronger than that.

San Andreas, the movie, was very scary and very realistic for many viewers.  The movie was correct in how it depicted earthquake safety and preparedness, promoting the international slogan “Drop, Cover, and Hold On”; it also showed us how important it is to have first aid training and established back-up plans.  Other scenes in the movie, while leading viewers to believe they could or would happen, are completely fictional.

Some of the fictional situations include the following:

  • Earthquakes cannot accurately be predicted. Scientists are still learning about earthquakes; as their understanding increases, it may be possible to develop a way to accurately forecast seismic activity in the future.
  • A mega-quake along the San Andreas Fault registering 9.6 magnitude would be 90 times more forceful than the strongest possible earthquake along the fault.
  • Even if the largest possible earthquake on the San Andreas were to happen, the shaking would not be felt more than 2000 miles away on the East Coast.
  • The movie shows the San Andreas Fault splitting apart during the mega-quake and that would not happen in a real California temblor.  The San Andreas Fault is where the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate come together.  These plates are sliding past each other and over time, stress builds up and needs to be released.  Earthquakes along the fault will periodically occur as the pressure is let loose, however they will not cause wide open gaps along the fault line as depicted on the film.
  • The actual 9.6 earthquake shown in the movie was not long enough, nor was it powerful enough.  Earthquakes with a magnitude over 9.0 can last up to 10 minutes and during the violent rocking and rolling, no one would be able to walk or run.  Driving would be impossible as well.

While there are many larger-than-life scenes in the movie that are designed to keep viewers sitting at the edge of their seats, San Andreas is a multi-million dollar fictional film created to entertain moviegoers.  Even though a 9.6 mega-quake will not happen in California, earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault do occur and the time and strength cannot be predicted.  Los Angeles property owners need to take the possibility of a violent quake in the area seriously and begin preparing now to ensure the safety of their property.

If you own commercial property in the Los Angeles area that was built more than 30 years ago, most likely the building was not designed with current building safety codes in mind.  The good news is that you can avoid the complete destruction that often happens with a powerful earthquake by retrofitting your property now.  Ensure your employees, customers and tenants will be safe when the next “BIG ONE” happens.

Before it is too late, contact a professional contractor with retrofitting experience to thoroughly inspect your building.  After the inspection, they can advise you about any maintenance needed to correct potential problems and strengthen the structure.  Many commercial property owners in California work with the experienced professionals at Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofit when they are considering an earthquake retrofit.

San Andreas is an exciting movie to watch and it can serve as a reminder to all Los Angeles property owners that devastating earthquakes can happen at any time and at any place along the San Andreas Fault.  The expert team at Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofit is available to answer your questions and to arrange an appointment for a detailed strength and safety evaluation for your property.

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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