05:53 GMT01 August 2021
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    The section of the San Andreas Fault that passes through Southern California, one of the most active, is ready to unleash a devastating earthquake at any moment, scientists warned on Wednesday at the National Earthquake Conference.

    The 800-mile San Andreas fault, one of the longest in California, and has not had a significant energy release since 1857, implying that a large-scale earthquake is overdue, according to Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

    A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck some 185 miles of the fault in 1857, creating widespread damage, though the area at the time was thinly populated.

    “The springs on the San Andreas system have been wound very, very tight. And the southern San Andreas fault, in particular, looks like it’s locked, loaded and ready to go,” Jordan said during his speech, the LA Times reports.

    The problem, the Times explained, is that two tectonic plates, the North American plate and the Pacific Plate continue to move, and earthquakes are necessary and inevitable to relieve approximately 16 feet of movement every 100 years, but the San Andreas has not done so and has therefore been building up stress.

    In 2008, the US Geological Survey warned that an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude could result in over 1,800 deaths, at least 50,000 injuries, and cause some $200 billion in damage. The federal agency also warned that the sewer system could be taken out of function for six months. Jordan believes that the next earthquake on the fault could reach a magnitude 8 or higher, resulting in catastrophic damage to the heavily-populated area.

    Though the fault does not directly pass through Los Angeles, Jordan warned that the city would be heavily impacted.

    "You can see that this area of influence by the shaking has now expanded out to huge proportions," Jordan said. "You see that big directivity pulse out in front, as that energy is being shoved down that fault, that directivity pulse leads energy into seismic waves that excite the sedimentary basins, like the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin," Jordan said. 

    "You'll notice large shaking in the Los Angeles region persisting for long periods of time," he warned.


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    San Andreas Fault, California, Thomas Jordan, Southern California Earthquake Center, National Earthquake Conference
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