The Earthquake in Mexico and its Possible Implications for California

  • October 2, 2017
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On September 19, 1985, Mexico was the victim of one of the worst earthquakes in its history. The magnitude 8.0 quake lasted for nearly three minutes and demolished buildings, caused gas line explosions, and brought on a small tsunami. It left 9,500 people dead and 30,000 homeless.

32 years later, on September 19, 2017, Mexico had gathered to commemorate the disaster and the lives that were lost in it. The memorial had greater significance this year due to the 8.1 earthquake that had erupted off the Pacific Coast and caused great damage in the southern part of the country twelve days earlier. But, later in the day, the country was shocked again when a 7.1 earthquake exploded under Puebla, some 100 miles away from the capital of Mexico City. The quake caused further widespread destruction, with dozens of buildings collapsing and many more sustaining heavy structural damage, burying hundreds of people in the debris. Since then, aftershocks exceeding a magnitude of 6.0 have plagued the area. The current death toll exceeds 270 lives.

This disaster in Mexico has provoked questions concerning California’s own situation, due to its position above the San Andreas fault, which makes the state highly susceptible to earthquakes. It has been 23 years since California last experienced a large quake, that being the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Do the earthquakes in Mexico serve as a warning for the “big one” that everyone’s been waiting for?

The answer is no. Mexico and California are the victims of two very different fault lines. California, as mentioned, sits right on top of the San Andreas Fault, where quakes are caused when the two plates rub together horizontally. Mexico is just offshore of the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area in the Pacific Basin that experiences a high amount of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Here, the plates rub together vertically to cause earthquakes. Basically, an earthquake in Mexico has nothing to do with an earthquake in California.

That being said, California is long overdue for a massive earthquake. New findings from a study conducted at California State University in Northridge have shown the possibility for an earthquake to jump from the San Jacinto Fault (located in Southern California) to the San Andreas Fault, causing two earthquakes to occur simultaneously, an event California would be disastrously underprepared for.

So while Mexico picks up the pieces of its country and rebuilds, Californians should make sure they are prepared for the next great quake. This includes creating an easily accessible kit with enough non-perishable food and water for everyone in your family, as well as making sure heavy objects are bolted or strapped down to keep them from falling and causing injury. To see if you are ready for the big one, visit

Information for this article came from CNN, The New York Times, the LA Times, and

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