Earthquake hits West Hollywood border

September 3, 2012

A 3.2 magnitude earthquake struck overnight one half block outside West Hollywood in Beverly Hills.

What better way to kick off National Preparedness Month than to hold an earthquake?

That’s apparently what the West Hollywood public safety commission and staff did when they arranged for a 3.2 earthquake to hit the WeHo border overnight.

Earthquakes of even small size can cause damage that brings civilization to a standstill for days.

A shallow magnitude 3.2 earthquake was reported Monday morning about one block outside West Hollywood in Beverly Hills (now that’s planning – if you’re going to throw an earthquake, do it in your neighbor’s city), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The temblor occurred at 3:26 a.m.

In the past 10 days, there has been one other earthquake magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

The fault on which the temblor took place is called the Santa Monica fault, which extends east from the coastline in Pacific Palisades through Santa

Monica and West Los Angeles and merges with the Hollywood fault in Beverly Hills, running out past Cedars-Sinai Hospital toward Los Angeles and continuing on to join the San Andreas Fault.

The Hollywood Fault runs under Sunset Boulevard through West Hollywood.

According to earthquake experts at Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), Hollywood fault is a topographic scarp separating highly-dissected older alluvium to the west from young alluvium of the Beverly Hills plain to the east.

It extends east-northeast for a distance of 14 km (8.6 miles) through Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood to the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5.

Earthquakes are a fact of life in Southern California, and "the Big One" is not necessary to hamper our daily lives – be prepared..

The last earthquake of note on that fault occurred on September 9, 2001 when a 4.2 earthquake centered in West Hollywood hit at 4:30-ish am.

In 1997, seismic consultant Rachel Gulliver told the WeHo City Council that two underground faults run along the northern and southern edges of the city.

According to Ms. Gulliver, a geologist and former Los Angeles building and safety commissioner, the northern fault–known as the Hollywood fault–runs beneath Sunset Boulevard at the base of the Hollywood Hills.

The Santa Monica fault, according to her presentation, clips the city's southern boundary with Los Angeles, a densely built commercial area that includes Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Beverly Center shopping mall and several incomplete hotel projects.

Ms. Gulliver described the two West Hollywood faults as "potentially active," which means that they have not been known to cause any surface movement in the past 11,000 years.

Geologists consider known active faults, such as the San Andreas Fault, much more dangerous.

With potentially active faults, there is often not enough available information to determine their rate of activity, Ms. Gulliver said.

Still, those faults pose a potential dangerous problem, especially for the densely developed urban areas under which they lurk.

Earthquakes are a fact of life in Southern California, and "the Big One" is not necessary to hamper our daily lives – be prepared..

In an article for the  Geological Society of America, a half dozen scientists asserted that rupture of the entire Hollywood fault, by itself, could produce a magnitude 6.6 earthquake, similar in size to the highly destructive 1994 Northridge earthquake – but even closer to more densely urbanized areas.

Which brings us to September’s National Preparedness Month.

City staff put out a press release on Friday saying that this happens to be a “great time to make sure you have the needed tools to survive a crisis or major disaster.”

(By now you’ve figured out that staff didn’t actually arrange for the little temblor as a demonstration, but read on for valuable safety tips).

They suggest that West Hollywood residents and businesses should prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days after an emergency.

After a major disaster, electricity, gas, water, and telephones may not be working. 

Transportation routes and businesses may be closed. 

Services in the City of West Hollywood may also be impacted as staff may be handling serious incidents during the initial hours of the disaster. 

It also may take some time for public safety personnel to reach those in need.

The city encourages residents and business owners to “get prepared for emergencies by taking a few simple steps – putting together a disaster kit, making an emergency plan, and staying informed.

For more information or for helpful preparedness tips, call (323) 848-6414, visit the City’s Public Safety website at http://www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=327 or follow the links for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready.gov site.