Earthquakes of December

December earthquakes

Holiday Season of Earthquakes

Historic earthquakes have hit California during the holiday season. Over the years, we have seen several quakes over magnitude-6.4 across the state.

These notable events in California, during the week prior to Christmas and even on Christmas day, remind us that earthquakes could happen on any day of the year. Staying prepared includes educating yourself on the benefits of having an earthquake insurance policy. Remember, a homeowners policy protects you from fire, wind, theft, and plumbing damage, but you still risk losing your home to an earthquake. Without earthquake insurance, there is a severe gap in your home coverage.

Major Shaking Across Northern California in 2022 & 1954

Most recently, Humboldt County experienced a destructive magnitude-6.4 event on December 20, 2022. The earthquake struck the north coast of California, a remote area known for its redwood forests and Pacific Ocean views. This resulted in at least two fatalities, nearly a dozen injuries, and many people displaced. The earthquake occurred at 2:34 a.m. Pacific time, causing significant damage to infrastructure, including bridges, roads, and buildings. Over 70,000 residents in Humboldt County lost power, and certain areas also faced a lack of running water and major transport disruptions.

The earthquake’s epicenter was offshore, about 12 miles west of Ferndale and over 200 miles north of San Francisco, in a region known for seismic activity.

Also, in the area of Humboldt County, on December 21, 1954, a magnitude-6.5 earthquake caused damage estimates reaching up to $2 million. This quake was centered near Ferndale and occurred at 11:57 a.m. It resulted in one fatality and approximately 50 injuries. The region also felt several smaller aftershocks.

The Humboldt Times described the aftermath: “chimneys fell, store windows bent and broke, and old buildings groaned and swayed alarmingly following the major quake.”

12/22/2003: Destruction on the Central Coast

On December 22, 2003, at 11:15 a.m., the 6.6-magnitude San Simeon earthquake struck approximately 7 miles northeast of the central coast town. This earthquake resulted in significant damage to around 46 buildings. Tragically, two people were killed in Paso Robles by debris from the collapse of the Acorn building, an 1892 unreinforced masonry structure known for its iconic clock tower. Additionally, 40 others were injured.

The earthquake heavily damaged other unreinforced masonry buildings, many over 100 years old, in Paso Robles’ historic downtown. According to CNN, buildings that had undergone any level of retrofitting managed to withstand the quake without collapsing. Officials reported that the earthquake destroyed several businesses and residences near the downtown area and caused gas and water line ruptures.

The quake’s impact was felt as far as Los Angeles, marking it as the most severe earthquake in the U.S. since the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

12/25/1899: Christmas Morning Brings a Quake to the High Desert

In 1899, residents of Riverside County experienced an unexpected event on Christmas morning. At around 4:25 a.m., a powerful earthquake, estimated at 6.7-magnitude, struck the region, with its epicenter located about 10 miles southeast of San Jacinto. The tremor was felt widely, reaching as far as the California coast, Bakersfield to the north, Seligman, Arizona to the east, and the Mexico/California border.

As reported by the San Francisco Call, “The earthquake was characterized by short, sharp jerks and was accompanied by a loud, terrifying roar that persisted for several minutes after the shaking ceased. Inhabitants of San Jacinto and Hemet noted that the quake lasted for about 30 seconds and was followed by weeks of aftershocks, including over 30 on the day of the earthquake itself.”


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