Strong 4.5 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Coachella Valley Awake

Strong 4.5 Magnitude Earthquake Shakes Coachella Valley Awake

Andrew F. Johnston

Three earthquakes — one of them capable of causing moderate damage — rocked an area of Riverside County near Banning Tuesday and was felt as far away as Los Angeles about 90 miles from the epicenter.

The biggest temblor — a 4.5 magnitude shaker — struck at 4:49 a.m. at a depth of eight miles. Its epicenter was six miles south-southeast of Mount San Gorgonio and eight miles north of Cabazon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Two minutes later, a magnitude 3.2 quake was recorded in the same area.

Following about five hours of inactivity, a magnitude 2.6 temblor was recorded at 10:11 a.m., near where the early morning quakes struck. There were no reports of damages or injuries.

The largest quake was felt over a wide are of Southern California, including in Los Angeles around 90 miles to the west of the epicenter, as well as by many people jolted awake in Orange County and the San Diego region.

“Wow the earthquake was all the way in Banning, I thought it was here.”

Seismologist Lucy Jones said the epicenter was within a region known as the San Gorgonio Knot, where numerous small faults intersect and the only part of the southern San Andreas Fault that produces smaller quakes. The epicenter of a 1986 Palm Springs quake of magnitude 5.9 — the largest in the Coachella Valley since a magnitude 6.0 quake rocked Desert Hot Springs in 1948 — was less than 10 miles east of the most recent quakes, seismologists said.

Though scores of Southern Californians felt the predawn quakes, Jones assured residents that temblors of this size are fairly common statewide and are representative of normal California earthquake activity.

Within 40 minutes of the bigger quake, more than 6,700 people had reported, via the official U.S. Geological Survey website, that they had felt it. According to a map based on those reports, the largest quake was felt as far north as Santa Clarita and Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County and as far south as Tijuana, Mexico.

More than 10,000 responses had been recorded by the USGS by mid-morning.

On Twitter, users from across Southern California reported being jolted awake. A woman in Pico Rivera in southeast L.A. County tweeted: “Wow the earthquake was all the way in Banning, I thought it was here.”