At 10:33 a.m. Santa Barbara houses swayed as an earthquake near Ridgecrest in the Mojave Desert rippled out.
The magnitude 6.4 earthquake was felt by many across California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Magnitude and intensity, however, are not always the same when analyzing an earthquake. UCSB seismologist Zachary Eilon explained that while magnitude describes how much energy is released as the earth shifts beneath the epicenter of the earthquake, intensity — whose scale is known as the Modified Mercalli Intensity — refers to the shaking felt by individuals at a specific spot.
“While folks near the hypocenter in Ridgecrest might have felt something between Very Strong and Severe shaking (MMI 7.5),” Dr. Eilon said, “in Santa Barbara, the shaking was much weaker, less than a MMI 2 or 3.”
Santa Barbara has had its fair share of earthquakes. In 1925, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake wreaked havoc on Santa Barbara, damaging buildings and taking lives. Two years later, a stronger temblor, the magnitude 7.1 Lompoc Earthquake, produced a 6.5-foot tsunami at Surf and Pismo beaches, according to the California Institute of Technology’s Southern California Earthquake Data Center.
“No deaths or major injuries (excepting those of ocean fish) were reported.”
Dr. Eilon noted that the 1952 magnitude 7.5 Kern County Earthquake occurred “fairly close” to Thursday’s earthquake epicenter, and “may actually have been the largest earthquake in California in the last century.”
Aftershocks are fairly common, Dr. Eilon said.
“Folks should treat them seriously — get underneath a protective piece of furniture and hold on,” he warned.
The American Red Cross has tips for before, during and after an earthquake. All members of the household should practice drop, cover and hold, and doorways should not be relied upon for protection. Instead, individuals should get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on, echoing Dr. Eilon’s advice.
An extensive set of tips by the Red Cross can be found at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/earthquake.html.