California earthquake jitters nerves as Hurricane Hillary approaches

All of California’s vulnerability was on display Sunday afternoon. In addition to rain from an extremely rare tropical storm, firefighters near the Oregon border battled a wildfire that grew to 2,000 acres overnight.

Then the ground shook.

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake centered near Ojai, California, is unlikely to have caused serious damage. But residents of Los Angeles, about 60 miles southeast of the epicenter, felt the shaking long enough to notice.

A 3.5-magnitude earthquake often vibrates like someone bumped into your desk. The Ojai earthquake was slightly more significant than that and may have caused some minor cracks in the walls, says Jana Pursley, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey.

Although the quake was felt in much of Santa Barbara County, about 15 miles from Ojai, there were no immediate reports of damage, said Jackie Ruiz, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

“Generally it seems like people felt the tremors and they got the warnings and there was no harm,” Ms Ruiz said.

He said local officials were juggling several emergencies on Sunday, and that the tropical storm’s rain would peak between 4pm and 10pm, and that the fire that started Saturday in the northern part of the county would continue to burn.

“Definitely a busy day,” Ms. Ruiz said.

But Sunday’s quake was mild compared to some of the larger earthquakes that have wreaked havoc in California. A magnitude 6.7 earthquake that struck the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1994 released 125 times more energy than today’s Ojai earthquake.

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The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed more than 60 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, was 253 times more powerful than the Ojai earthquake.

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