According to a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey and a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission, the Coachella Valley is overdue for a major earthquake that would make the 1994 Northridge tremblor look like a hiccup.
Lucy Jones says Los Angeles wouldn't be spared, either. From the L.A. Times:
Historically, major temblors have struck the Coachella Valley every 150 years, on average, but for reasons no one can explain, it's been quiet for 300 years.
"Whatever it is that makes for a long interval is happening now, and we know that long interval can't last forever," Jones said. "This is an overdue fault."
Stresses are building under the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, which could cause the ground to move as fast as 10 feet a second during an earthquake. The Northridge quake in 1994 moved about 6 feet a second.
A likely scenario would have a magnitude-7.8 earthquake strike in the Salton Sea, extending north and west toward Palmdale. Jones predicted the shaking could last more than 100 seconds, kill thousands, destroy homes, collapse the I-10 and I-15 freeways, ignite petroleum pipelines and leave untold thousands homeless in potentially searing desert heat. The long-term effects, she said, could be akin to the economic collapse of New Orleans and the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina.
Sleep well tonight! Are you prepared for the next serious earthquake? Perhaps Thursday morning's 4.6 shaker should serve as a reminder.