California Earthquake Created a Massive Crack in the Earth Visible in Satellite Images

By Wire Service Content

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook California on July 5 also ripped open a fissure.

When the shaking started at 8:19 p.m., many scrambled for cover. It was the second strong earthquake to hit the area in less than 48 hours.

The immediate damage it caused was very clear. Stores had broken bottles and exploded cans littering their floors and other items that had been hanging on walls had toppled over.

As the sun rose the next day, it also became clear that the area’s topography had changed.

Satellite images provided to CNN by Planet Labs, Inc. show a crack has formed in the area close to the epicenter.

The large crack extends some distance from an area that apparently held water before. The erosion patterns on the desert sand indicate that some of that water was sucked out.

The satellite image isn’t the only evidence that the region’s topography was changed by the earthquake.

A nearby highway is now shutdown after tremors cracked and moved sections of the roadway.

The Big One Is Coming

According to geologists, a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault is likely “overdue.”

The southern San Andreas Fault has typically seen large earthquakes every 150 years, according to the US Geological Survey. And since the last large earthquake there occurred in 1857, the southern segment of the fault “is considered a likely location for an earthquake” in the coming years.

A major 7.9-magnitude quake in San Francisco in 1906 means there’s a slightly lower chance of a major earthquake happening in the northern part of the state, the USGS website said.

san andreas fault
Layers of earthquake-twisted ground are seen at dusk where the 14 freeway crosses the San Andreas Fault in a 2006 file photo near Palmdale, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Many residents, like Steve Rios of Riverside, California, are acutely aware of the threat.

“I would honestly say it’s something Californians are always cognizant of because of the San Andreas Fault being here,” he said.

“We’re standing on two different (sides) of the fault line,” he pointed out. “It’s kind of a scary feeling.”

Last week’s tremors probably won’t increase the likelihood of a major earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, seismologists said. They occurred near Ridgecrest, north of the fault.

But they also don’t make it less likely, Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters Thursday.

There’s about a 2% chance of the Big One occurring each year, Jones said on Twitter this week, or about 1 in 20,000 every day. While the chances may not be high, residents shouldn’t be caught unaware.

“One should always be preparing for a Big One,” she said.

According to the USGS, such an event would likely be preceded by a period of increased seismic activity for several years. Over the last two decades, Jones said Thursday, Southern California has experienced “an extremely quiet time” when it comes to seismic activity.

But going forward, “this is more what we should be thinking about,” she said.

California earthquake map
The earth hasn’t stopped rumbling under Southern California since July 4, when a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rattled Ridgecrest and the surrounding area. (CNN)