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Arizona’s risk of bad quakes far less than California

But earthquakes do happen here
Posted at 7:34 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 22:34:37-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - When a big earthquake hits the state right next to ours - it's natural to wonder if Arizona's at risk from a quake.

Arizona does get earthquakes -- but bad ones are rare.

When you can't trust the ground under your feet, there's no wonder earthquakes can trigger a special fear.

The quake that hit California July 4th was about as strong as the Northridge quake that killed 57 people in Los Angeles 25 years ago.

Don Gest teaches geology at Pima Community College. He says it's lucky this latest earthquake hit an area with far fewer people.

“So they (earthquakes) come when they come. And this one just happened to come. Luckily, it was it was the same size as Northridge, but it's way out there. But it was felt all the way into Los Angeles. That's a big earthquake.”

California may be our neighbor but Arizona's geology is not nearly as shaky.

The Arizona Geological Survey says we do get earthquakes, especially in Northern Arizona but if California may have big earthquakes 25 years apart, Arizona's serious quakes may be 15 to 30 thousand years apart.

One of the biggest quakes in Arizona history was in 1887. The Sonoran earthquake was centered in Northern Mexico but strong enough to damage buildings as far north as Phoenix.

So it's not as if earthquakes never happen here; they are just very rare.

Don Gest says, “I was just in the Bay Area. I would go nuts if I actually lived in the Bay Area, because I would just be worried about it. Here, the chances of an earthquake are incredibly low."

Gest says it's hard to get much warning to escape earthquake danger but if the earth does start shaking try to get out in the open where there's no danger something will collapse onto you.

The Arizona Geological Survey offers a detailed guide to earthquakes and how to improve your safety if one does hit.