Breaking: Big earthquakes hit California, Mexico

In the latest of a series of major earthquakes to hit the Americas this year, Baja California produced a temblor that reached 6.9 on the Richter scale this afternoon, with effects felt throughout Southern California, Arizona, and into Nevada.  It also appeared to trigger a series of quakes father north, the strongest of which was a 4.1 quake in Santa Rosa:

A string of earthquakes rattled the Pacific Coast of the United States and Mexico on Sunday, including a magnitude 6.9 quake that could be felt across Baja California, Arizona and southern California, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

That quake, centered about 175 kilometers (110 miles) east-southeast of Tijuana, was the largest of at least four that struck from the Mexican desert to the northern California wine country, according to the USGS. There was no immediate report of damage or injuries from the quakes in Los Angeles or San Diego, according to authorities in those cities. …

The northernmost quake report came from near Santa Rosa, California, north of San Francisco. That magnitude 4.1 temblor struck about nine minutes after the Baja California quake and about 500 miles further north.

Chandeliers swung and water sloshed around in swimming pools in the Los Angeles suburbs, witnesses reported, while posters to the Web site Twitter reported feeling the quake in Phoenix, Arizona.

So far, no reports of significant damage have surfaced.  California has building standards that greatly reduce damage and danger of death, and the distance from the epicenter also helps.  For instance, the Northridge quake of 1994 was a 6.7 Richter scale event, but with an epicenter right under a densely populated area.  That quake killed 72 people, injured thousands, left hundreds homeless, and cost $20 billion in damage.

I checked in with family members in California a few minutes ago.  They reported a long, rolling quake, enough to throw water out of pools in Orange County, but not to do any serious damage.  We’ll keep an eye on any further reports, especially out of Mexico, where towns in closer proximity may not have as much luck avoiding the effects of a major quake like this.

Note: Front-page pic from CNN’s i-Report squad member deftonesgu.

Update: Now it’s listed as 7.2 on the Richter.  The USGS data show this to be an earthquake “swarm,” commenter Mutnodjmet says, and it’s interesting to read.  Here are the significant quakes in the series (all times PT):

  • 15:34, Guadalupe Victoria, BC, magnitude 3.3 Richter
  • 15:40, Guadalupe Victoria, BC, 7.2
  • 15:56, Borrego Springs, CA, 3.9
  • 16:09, Jacumba Hot Springs, CA, 4.5
  • 16:10, Malibu, CA, 3.0
  • 16:15, Imperial, CA, 5.1
  • 16:19, Jacumba Hot Springs, CA, 3.8
  • 16:20, Julian, CA, 3.6
  • 16:25, Guadalupe Victoria, BC, 5.4
  • 16:34, Calexico, CA, 4.3
  • 16:37, Mexicali, BC, 4.7
  • 16:46, Seeley, CA, 3.5
  • 16:48, Holtville, CA, 3.4
  • 16:49, North Shore, CA, 3.4
  • 16:53, Seeley, CA, 3.6
  • 16:57, Seeley, CA, 3.9

That’s a lot of significant quake activity, but what you’d expect from a major quake like a 7.2.