California Earthquakes

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Large earthquakes in the United States, magnitude 7 and greater. USGS National Earthquake Information Center.

Chronological

Alphabetical

Magnitude


Wrightwood, San Juan Capistrano, California, 1812

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Effects of the 1812 earthquake on the San Juan Capistrano Mission. Top: Sketch made in 1850. Bottom: Photograph taken in 1876 shows further damage from weathering and neglect. Kozak Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: December 8, 1812

Time: Mid-morning

Location: Uncertain; probably on San Andreas fault near Wrightwood

Magnitude: MW 7.5 (estimated)

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: ~170 km (~106 miles)

Deaths: 40

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Lompoc, California, 1812

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La Purisima Concepcion. Mission buildings damaged by earthquake, fire, and exposure to the elements. Kozak Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: December 21, 1812

Location: Uncertain; possibilities include offshore in Santa Barbara Channel, inland in Santa Barbara County, and inland in Ventura County.

Magnitude: MW 7.1

Modified Mercalli Intensity: X

Deaths: 0

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Volcano Lake, California, 1852

Mud volcanoes on the west side of Volcano Lake, similar to those that erupted after the 1852 earthquake. D. T. MacDougal. National Earthquake Information Center, USGS.

Date: November 29, 1852

Time: About noon

Location: ~48 km (~30 miles) SW of Yuma, Arizona

Magnitude: ML 6.5

Fault Type: Uncertain; probably right-lateral strike-slip

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Fort Tejon, California, 1857

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Santa Cruz Mission in ruins. A sketch made one day after the earthquake. Kozak Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: January 9, 1857

Time: 8:20 A.M. PST

Location: 72 km (45 miles) NE of San Luis Obispo; 120 km (75 miles) NW of Bakersfield; see map

Magnitude: MW 7.9

Modified Mercalli Intensity: X-XI

Fault: San Andreas fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: ~360 km (~225 miles)

Maximum Horizontal Displacement: ~9 meters (~30 feet)

Deaths: 2

Damage: Heavy propery loss at Fort Tejon

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Owens Valley, California, 1872

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Left: Courthouse at Independence. Right: Munzinger & Lubken's Brewery in Lone Pine. Kozak Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: March 26, 1872

Time: 2:30 A.M. PST

Location: Lone Pine

Magnitude: MW 7.8

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX

Fault: Owens Valley fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral dip-slip

Rupture Length: 160 km (100 miles)

Maximum Horizontal Displacement: 7 meters (23 feet)

Maximum Vertical Displacement: 1 meter (~3 feet)

Deaths: At least 27

Damage: $250,000

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Imperial Valley, California, 1892

Date: February 23, 1892

Time: 11:20 P.M. PST

Location: ~20 km (~13 miles) SW of Mexicali, Mexico; ~125 km (~80 miles) east of San Diego

Magnitude: MW 7.0, ML 7.8

Fault: Laguna Salada fault zone

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Deaths: 0

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San Jacinto, California, 1899

Damage typical of buildings in the towns of San Jacinto and Hemet. This was the Pomengia Building in San Jacinto. The San Jacinto Mountains can be seen in the distance. E. W. Claypole, SCEC Data Center.

Date: December 25, 1899

Time: 4:25 A.M. PST

Location: ~16 km (~10 miles) SE of San Jacinto; ~115 km (~72 miles) ESE of Los Angeles

Magnitude: MW 6.6

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX

Fault: San Jacinto fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Deaths: 6

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San Francisco, California, 1906

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View southwest from corner of Geary and Mason streets, San Francisco. April 20, 1906. From Earth Science Photographs from the U.S. Geological Survey Library, by Joseph K. McGregor and Carl Abston, U.S. Geological Survey Digital Data Series DDS-21, 1995.

Date: April 18, 1906

Time: 5:12 A.M. PST

Location: San Francisco

Magnitude: MW 7.7, ML 8.25

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX-XI

Fault: San Andreas fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: 430 km (267 miles)

Maximum Horizontal Displacement: 6.4 meters (21 feet)

Maximum Vertical Displacement: 0.9 meter (~3 feet)

Deaths: 3000 (estimated)

Damage: $524 million

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San Jacinto, California, 1918

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Damage to unit masonry buildings in San Jacinto.Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: April 21, 1918

Time: 2:32 P.M. PST

Location: Near the town of San Jacinto, about 112 km (70 miles) ESE of Los Angeles

Magnitude: MW 6.6

Fault: San Jacinto fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Deaths: 1

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Santa Barbara, California, 1925

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The Sheffield Dam after the 1925 earthquake. Located within the city limits. Capacity of 45,000,000 gallons, 219 meters (720 feet) long, and 7.6 meters (25 feet) high. Water face covered with 15 cm (6 inches) of concrete paving reinforced. It is believed that the dam failed largely because of saturation of a plane near the base, as seepage water below the dam had been noted for some time. Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: June 29, 1925

Time: 6:44 A.M. PST

Location: 12 km (8 miles) SW of Santa Barbara

Magnitude: ML 6.3

Fault Type: Uncertain; probably left-lateral reverse

Deaths: 13

Damage: $8 million

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Lompoc, California, 1927

Date: November 4, 1927

Time: 5:49 A.M. PST

Location: In the Lompoc area, ~16 km (~10 miles) offshore

Magnitude: MW 7.3

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX

Fault: Uncertain; possibly the Hosgri fault

Fault Type: Uncertain

Deaths: 0

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Long Beach, California, 1933

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Damage to wood frame dwelling. Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: March 10, 1933

Time: 5:54 P.M. PST

Location: 5 km (3 miles) south of Huntington Beach

Magnitude: MW 6.4

Modified Mercalli Intensity: VIII

Fault: Newport-Inglewood fault zone

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Deaths: 120

Damage: $50 million

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Imperial Valley, California, 1940

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Air view of offset in rows of orange trees. Looking north. Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: May 18, 1940

Time: 8:37 P.M. PST

Location: 8 km (5 miles) N of Calexico, 145 km (90 miles) E of San Diego

Magnitude: MW 6.9

Modified Mercalli Intensity: X

Fault: Imperial fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: ~65 km (~40 miles)

Maximum Surface Offset: ~4.5 meters (~15 feet)

Deaths: 8

Damage: $6 million

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Fish Creek Mountains, California, 1942

Date: October 21, 1942

Time: 9:30 A.M. PWT (Pacific War Time; same as PDT)

Location: ~45 km (~28 miles) W of Brawley; ~95 km (~60 miles) E of San Diego

Magnitude: MW 6.6

Fault: Coyote Creek fault, San Jacinto fault zone

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip?

Deaths: 0

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Manix, California, 1947

Date: April 10, 1947

Time: 7:58 A.M. PST

Location: 40 km (25 miles) E of Barstow; ~192 km (120 miles) NE of Los Angeles

Magnitude: MW 6.5

Fault: Manix fault

Fault Type: Left-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: ~5 km (~3 miles)

Maximum Surface Displacement: ~5 cm (~2 inches)

Deaths: 0

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Kern County, California, 1952

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Rear of buldings on Main Street, Tehachapi, California. Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: July 21, 1952

Time: 4:52 A.M. PDT

Location: 37 km (23 miles) S of Bakersfield

Magnitude: MW 7.5

Modified Mercalli Intensity: X-XI

Fault: White Wolf fault

Fault Type: Reverse, with left-lateral component

Horizontal Displacement: As much as 45 cm (~18 inches)

Vertical Displacement: As much as 60 cm (~24 inches)

Deaths: 12

Damage: $60 million

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Bakersfield, California, 1952

Date: August 22, 1952

Time: 3:41 P.M. PDT

Location: 10 km (6 miles) ESE of Bakersfield

Magnitude: ML 5.8

Modified Mercalli Intensity: VIII

Fault: Same as Kern County 1952 earthquake (this was an aftershock)

Fault Type: Same as Kern Country 1952 earthquake

Deaths: 2

Damage: $10 million

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Borrego Mountain, California, 1968

Date: April 8, 1968

Time: 6:29 P.M. PDT

Location: ~1.5 km (~1 mile) N of Ocotillo Wells; ~64 km (~40 miles) S of Indio

Depth: 20 km (12 miles)

Magnitude: MW 6.5

Fault: Coyote Creek fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: ~33 km (~20 miles)

Maximum Surface Offset: 38 cm (16 inches)

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San Fernando, California, 1971

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View of the collapse of the South Connector Overcrossing, located in the Route 14/I-5 Interchange, during the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. The structure consisted of two 54-meter continuous prestressed concrete box girder spans that were supported at their ends at hinge seats on the end of the cantilevered parts of the adjacent spans. The two continuous spans were supported by a single 1.8 x 3-meter cross-section column that was approximately 43 m high. As shown in this slide, the two continuous spans and the supporting column fell down. Godden Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: February 9, 1971

Time: 6:01 A.M. PST

Location: Sylmar-San Fernando area

Depth: 8.4 km (5.2 miles)

Magnitude: MW 6.6

Modified Mercalli Intensity: VIII-IX

Fault: San Fernando fault zone; minor offset reported on the eastern Santa Susana fault zone

Fault Type: Thrust fault

Rupture Length: ~19 km (~12 miles)

Maximum Slip: 2 meters (~6 feet)

Deaths: 65

Damage: $500 million

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Imperial Valley, California, 1979

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Collapse of a steel tank during the 1979 Imperial Valley Earthquake. Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Date: October 15, 1979

Time: 4:54 P.M. PDT

Location: ~29 km (~18 miles) SE of El Centro

Magnitude: MW 6.4

Modified Mercalli Intensity: IX

Faults: Imperial (main and North Extension) fault zone, Brawley fault zone, and Rico fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: 30 km (~19 miles) of the Imperial fault zone, 13 km (8 miles) of the Brawley fault zone, and 1 km (0.6 mile) of the Rico fault

Maximum Horizontal Displacement: 55 cm (22 inches)

Maximum Vertical Displacement: 19 cm (7.5 inches)

Damage: $30 million

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Loma Prieta, California, 1989

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Pancaked upper deck, Cypress viaduct. Guard rail at right is on lower deck. H.G. Wilshire, U.S. Geological Survey.

Date: October 17, 1989

Time: 5:04 P.M. PDT

Location: Santa Cruz Mountains, ~96 km (~60 miles) S of San Francisco, 16 km (10 miles) NE of Santa Cruz

Depth: 17.7 km (11 miles)

Magnitude: MW 7.2

Modified Mercalli Intensity: X

Fault: San Andreas

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip and reverse slip

Deaths: 63

Damage: $6.8 billion

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Joshua Tree, California, 1992

Date: April 22, 1992

Time: 9:50 P.M. PDT

Location: 18 km (11 miles) east of Desert Hot Springs; 29 km (18 miles) north of Indio

Depth: 12.4 km (7.7 miles)

Magnitude: MW 6.1

Fault: Probably Eureka Peak fault

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

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Landers, California, 1992

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The surface rupture of the Landers earthquake tore across the pavement of Highway 247, showing strike-slip offset quite dramatically. SCEC Data Center.

Date: June 28, 1992

Time: 4:57 A.M. PDT

Location: 6 miles N of Yucca Valley

Depth: 1.1 km (0.7 mile)

Magnitude: MW 7.3, MS 7.6

Modified Mercalli Intensity: VIII-IX

Faults: Johnson Valley, Landers, Homestead Valley, Emerson, Camp Rock

Fault Type: Right-lateral strike-slip

Rupture Length: 85 km (~53 miles)

Maximum Slip: 6 meters (~20 feet)

Deaths: 1

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Northridge, California, 1994

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Tangled, collapsed stairwell at the northeast corner of the California State University, Northridge, parking structure. Total damage to the campus was estimated at between $250 and $350 million. Ken Fowler, SCEC Data Center.

Date: January 17, 1994

Time: 4:31 A.M. PST

Location: 32 km (20 miles) WNW of Los Angeles; 0.6 km (1 mile) SSW of Northridge

Depth: 18.4 km (11.4 miles)

Magnitude: MW 6.7

Modified Mercalli Intensity: VIII

Fault: : Northridge Thrust (Oak Ridge fault)

Fault Type: Blind thrust

Rupture Area: 15 by 20 km (9 by 12 miles)

Deaths: 56

Damage: $15 billion

More information: