6.4-Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Northern California

    6.4-Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Northern California
    Last updated Dec 20, 2022
    Image credit: California Highway Patrol [via KTLA]


    • On Tuesday, a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck near Eureka, Calif. The quake has claimed two lives, damaged infrastructure, and left thousands without power.[1]
    • According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the shaking began in the early morning hours with an epicenter 7.4 miles west-southwest of Ferndale. More than a dozen aftershocks were recorded following the initial quake.[2]
    • The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, using social media, reported widespread damage to roads and homes and asked residents to check for gas and water leaks. Residents were also encouraged not to call 911 unless there is an immediate emergency to avoid overwhelming the county's emergency services.[3]
    • A historic bridge, the Fernbridge, was damaged in the quake. The bridge is the only one to cross the Eel River for several miles and was closed on Tuesday morning.[3]
    • State Sen. Mike McGuire reported that safety evaluations shortly begin — particularly on gas and electric lines. 72K were reported without power.[4]
    • This quake comes nearly one year after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Cape Mendocino in the same area and caused minor damage to buildings and infrastructure.[5]


    Narrative A

    People don't usually associate earthquakes with climate change but they are intimately connected and must be considered together. Scientists are warning that the impacts of global warming could make earthquakes more damaging and more deadly. Climate change is increasing the frequency of wildfires in California, which can exacerbate mudslides — this lethal combination could double fatalities and economic loss following a big quake.

    Narrative B

    Californians are ready for the next big quake. The state is one of the world leaders in preparedness, as evidenced by its glowing track record with previous earthquakes. Since 1933, no earthquake in the state has caused more than 100 fatalities. While there has been property damage, the implementation of aggressive and proactive building codes coupled with emergency preparedness have saved lives in earthquakes that would devastate less-prepared areas of the world.

    Cynical narrative

    California's current building code fools people into thinking that every structure is up-to-code, earthquake-proof, and will withstand serious damage when the ground starts to shake. This is a false assumption, as the weak building codes are meant to prevent building collapse and little else. Households need to prepare for the fact that humans are the ones who cause disasters in the end — California is no exception.

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