Puente Hills Fault Quake Could Be Worse Than San Andreas Earthquake

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 07:03 AM

By Angela Deines

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The earthquake that shook Southern California on Friday is serving as a reminder to seismologists that the Puente Hills thrust fault could produce an even more disastrous event.

The Puente Hills thrust fault runs north through the suburbs of northern Orange County through downtown Los Angeles before ending in Hollywood.

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According to The Los Angeles Times, experts say a major magnitude 7.5 earthquake along that fault line could do more damage to the heart of Los Angeles than the feared “Big One” on the San Andreas fault, which is on the outskirts of metropolitan Southern California.

Seismologist Lucy Jones told the Times that Friday night's earthquake was caused by the underground fault slipping for half a second, causing about 10 seconds of shaking on the earth’s surface. However, a 7.5 earthquake on the Puente Hills fault could cause the fault to slip for at least 20 seconds, with the resulting shaking lasting much longer and over a much wider area than previous earthquakes.

The U.S. Geological Survey created a simulation several years ago that shows the area of Southern California that could be affected by a 7.5 earthquake along the Puente Hills fault line.

The USGS Geological Survey and Southern California Earthquake Center also estimate that fatalities could range from 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage from an earthquake along the Puente Hills fault. More than 750,000 could also be left homeless.

Discovered in 1999, scientists believe the Puente Hills fault has a major quake roughly every 2,500 years but don't know when the last one actually occurred.

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