A series of strong earthquakes struck Southern California late Monday night into early Tuesday morning, jolting people awake across the region. The largest quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 5.4, with several smaller aftershocks following.
The first quake hit at around 11:38 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, centered about 12 miles west of El Centro, California, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The initial 5.2 magnitude quake was felt as far away as San Diego, Phoenix and Tijuana, Mexico. Many residents across Southern California reported being shaken awake by the temblor.
Just 15 minutes later, at 11:53 p.m., a larger 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same general area near El Centro. This second, more powerful quake could be felt even more broadly across Southern California and Arizona. Residents in downtown San Diego some 115 miles away reported feeling a rolling motion that shook buildings. The quake rattled windows, swayed fixtures and rattled nerves across the region.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 5.4 magnitude earthquake occurred at a depth of about 6 miles underground. Over a dozen aftershocks have since been recorded in the area, including another 5.0 magnitude tremor that struck at 12:03 a.m. on Tuesday morning. No major damage or injuries have been reported so far, but authorities are still assessing the impacted areas.
Experts say Monday night’s earthquakes likely occurred on strands of the Southern San Andreas Fault system located in the Imperial Valley. This major plate boundary runs through Southern California and produces frequent seismic activity. The border area near El Centro has seen several earthquake swarms over the past few decades.
While damage assessments are still underway across the region, the earthquakes appear to have mostly produced rattling nerves and minor effects like items falling off shelves. Some power outages were reported near the epicenter. No major infrastructure damage has been found so far. The quakes occurred in a sparsely populated area, which likely helped minimize impacts.
Theearthquakes serve as a reminder that all of Southern California is earthquake country. Experts recommend residents be prepared with emergency kits and plans in case a major seismic event strikes. Simple preparedness steps like securing furniture and having ample food/water supplies can go a long way toward staying safe.
Officials also urge the public to avoid tying up 911 lines unless emergency help is truly needed. The non-emergency contacts for area police and fire departments are helpful resources for updates, information and non-life-threatening reports. Working together and staying vigilant will help the community recover from any earthquake impacts.
Seismologists say that significant earthquakes can often produce extended aftershock sequences. More seismic activity in the area near Monday night’s earthquakes is likely over the coming days and weeks. Most aftershocks are smaller and less damaging, but larger tremors can still occur. The region will have to remain alert as seismic energies continue to shift below ground.
Residents with damage to homes, businesses or infrastructure should carefully document issues and contact local authorities for assistance and guidance. With no injuries reported so far, the earthquakes seem to have produced more anxiety than actual harm. But officials pledge to thoroughly inspect properties and infrastructure across the impacted zones.
California and the West Coast will always face earthquake risks. But through preparation, responsiveness and working together, communities can demonstrate resilience in the face of seismic events. Monday night’s earthquakes shook Southern California awake, but will hopefully not produce any lasting harms.