A California county just had its biggest earthquake in 100 years

The 4.5 earthquake that occurred near Westley shortly after 9 p.m. on Monday was bigger than any in Stanislaus County going back a century in U.S. Geological Survey records, said USGS research geologist Austin Elliott.  

While earthquakes like this don’t necessarily signal anything big is imminent, they are a reminder that the ground can shake at any moment, Elliott noted.

“No individual small earthquake inherently indicates anything larger is coming, and most earthquakes of this magnitude pass without further events and without further larger events,” Elliott said.  

Aftershock sequences can last weeks and months, but for an earthquake of 4.5 magnitude, the aftershocks will likely be small and people will stop being able to feel them after a few days, he said. 

Stanislaus County is seismically active, but 14 earthquakes in 24 hours is not typical.

“A lot of the people who felt these ones are living in the Central Valley, Turlock, Modesto, Patterson … (and are) probably not so used to having an earthquake occur so close to them,” Elliott said. 

The earthquakes Monday were caused by a mix of compressional convergent faulting, where there’s two sides of a tectonic plate coming together, and strike slip faulting, where there two sides sliding past each other, Elliott said.  

Elliott said there are known faults in the region, but the earthquakes were too small to pin on a specific fault. 

The faults in the region are known to produce earthquakes, but they don’t lead to earthquakes as often as the San Andreas and the Calaveras faults, Elliott said. 


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