Eastern California quake rattles Three Rivers


A moderate earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 struck near Big Pine, Calif., on the east side of the Sierra (15 miles south of Bishop), seismologists said. The earthquake, which struck at 3:04 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Tuesday, Feb. 16, was centered about six miles northwest of Big Pine and 63 miles northeast of Three Rivers. 

It struck about 9.8 miles deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Light to moderate tremors were felt in Three Rivers and throughout the region, but there were no immediate reports about damage or injuries.

The 4.8 shake was followed by a 4.3-magnitude aftershock that also made its way west across the Sierra range to Three Rivers. More aftershocks are expected, but they’ll be smaller over time, experts report. 

According the CalTech’s Seismology Lab, the earthquake was in a seismically active area, with the Owens Valley Fault nearby. For California, however, this is classified as a small earthquake, the Lab reported.


Earthquakes and snowpack

During the afternoon of April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and nearby countries. Shaking from the powerful quake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 18 people at the Everest base camp.

The San Franciso earthquake on April 18, 1906, also a magnitude of 7.8, caused an avalanche in the Mineral King valley that, today, is part of Sequoia National Park. The Mineral King Store and nearby structures were destroyed.

Unless they occur in a populated area, avalanches go mostly unreported. There were no reported instabilities in the snowpack as a result of Tuesday’s temblor.

Avalanche danger near and above treeline is currently high with natural-caused avalanches a possibility and human-caused avalanches likely, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center.


1872 Lone Pine earthquake

Interred within a fenced enclosure is the mass grave of 16 people killed when one of the largest earthquakes ever to hit California rocked Lone Pine at 2:35 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26, 1872. It awakened residents hundreds of miles away. 

The common grave of 16 of 27 of the earthquake’s victims is now registered as California Historical Landmark No. 507. The historical marker is located 200 feet west of Highway 395 about a mile north of Lone Pine.

Damage was so widespread, adobe buildings in Red Bluff collapsed, 400 miles north of the quake. John Muir, who was living in Yosemite at the time, was awakened by the sound of rockslides and took the opportunity to study the changes in the land and rock formations within the valley immediately afterward. 

It was also reported at the time that people in Sacramento, 300 miles away, felt the impact of the earthquake and ran in panic to the streets. Residents of San Diego also reported an earth-shaking experience.

Although there were no official recording devices at the time, the quake was estimated to be 7.6 to 8.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale. The quake was thought to be similar in size to the San Francisco quake of 1906. 

Two faults moved simultaneously. The vertical fault moved roughly 15 to 20 feet, while the right lateral fault moved roughly 35 to 40 feet. The twin faults run along the base of the Sierra Nevada and Inyo Mountains, according to the USGS.

Most buildings in Lone Pine were made from adobe brick and crumbled to the ground. Twenty-seven of the approximately 250 to 300 residents of Lone Pine were killed, according to several different sources.  The adobe buildings located on Camp Independence also fell and the Camp was subsequently closed.

Many geoscientists who have studied the area theorize that quakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine event are responsible for creating Owens Valley.


Preparing for an earthquake

California is earthquake country, a region under constant threat from potentially damaging events, and residents should always be prepared. Damaging earthquakes are inevitable for California. 

There are many simple steps residents can take to protect lives and property. Simple safeguards include practicing “drop, cover, and hold on,” securing items in the home and workplace that could fall during an earthquake, and having on hand seven days’ worth of food and water. 

Items that should be secured include: water heater; tall furniture and bookcases; TVs, computers, and electronics; kitchen cabinets; all wall-mounted objects; objects on shelves and table tops; gas appliances; kitchen appliances; gym equipment; and outside, shop equipment, chemicals, propane tanks; and an unreinforced masonry chimney. 

Homeowners can also consider structural retrofits, such as bolting the house to its foundation, as well as earthquake insurance options. 

Tulare County’s Office of Emergency Services is the County’s emergency management agency, responsible for coordinating multi-agency responses to complex, large-scale emergencies and disasters within Tulare County. 

AlertTC is Tulare County OES’s public mass notification system, designed to keep those who live or work in Tulare County informed of important information during emergency events.

Residents prepare to be notified of emergencies by providing their landline phones, cell phones and e-mail addresses.

 Public safety officials respond by using the system to rapidly send out messages when there is a perceived, upcoming, or imminent situation that may require community action.

Based on the severity of an emergency, AlertTC may be used to contact residents by one or all of the following methods: home phone, work phone, cell phone, e-mail, text message, or fax. Mass notification systems have been attributed with saving lives during the 2007 Southern California wildfires by quickly notifying residents of evacuation instructions at all hours.

Sign up for AlertTC at http://tularecounty.ca.gov/oes/.

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