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New study suggests LA is due for a major earthquake

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It could be as high as 7.9 in magnitude

Collapsed freeway
Damage caused by the Northridge Earthquake in 1994
U.S. Geological Survey | creative commons

A new study confirms what many Angelenos already know in their heart of hearts: Sooner or later, the San Andreas Fault will will wreak havoc on Los Angeles.

A study released this month by the US Geological Survey examines 11 previous earthquakes that have occurred on the Big Bend section of the southern San Andreas Fault near Frazier Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest. Major earthquakes have ruptured at this site close to the Grapevine every 100 years or so, according to geological evidence examined by researchers.

As the last rupture occurred in 1857, the area is long overdue for a significant seismic event. That earthquake was an especially large one—magnitude 7.9—and its severity could explain why the fault has been fairly inactive since then, as seismologist Egill Hauksson tells the Los Angeles Times.

The earthquakes examined by the authors of the study were most often around 7.5, a magnitude significantly less devastating than 7.9, but scientists say that’s still powerful enough to cause tremendous disruption across Southern California. If the magnitude of the next earthquake climbs higher than that, it could be disastrous.

As the Times notes, the USGS has already run simulations of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake striking Southern California, and the results are just short of apocalyptic. Such an event would claim the lives of an estimated 1,800 residents, seriously injuring another 50,000.

A video simulation, released last year by the Southern California Earthquake Center, shows how a magnitude 8.0 earthquake (not likely, but certainly a possibility) would affect Los Angeles. It’s not pretty.

If you’re worried about how you’ll fare when “The Big One” hits, you can check to see if your residence is listed in a database of vulnerable buildings compiled by the Times using city data.