A Magnitude-6.5 Earthquake Off Coast of Northern California

On the morning of Thursday, December 8, 2016, around 6:50 a.m. PT., the U.S. Geological Survey reported that a 6.5 earthquake had struck at a depth of about 7.5 miles on the Pacific Ocean floor off the West Coast at the north end of the San Andreas Fault.


The quake was centered approximately 279 miles west northwest of Sacramento and 102 miles west of Ferndale. Light shaking was felt from several dozen miles south of San Francisco to east central Oregon. This quake was followed by a 4.7 magnitude temblor/aftershock at 8:32 a.m.


However, the earthquake did not disturb even one bulb on Ferndale’s tallest living lit Christmas tree in the nation, a giant Sitka spruce decorated with strings of 900 to 1,000 colored lights. The tree is an annual holiday tradition since 1934 in this quaint Victorian village.


The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center stated that no tsunami threat was expected from the initial earthquake, and there had been no reports of injuries or major damage. There was some inconvenience for commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area because BART trains moved at a temporarily reduced speed in the temblor’s aftermath, but that only led to delays of about 10 minutes.


CEO of the California Earthquake Authority, Glenn Pomeroy, stated that if a 6.5 quake had occurred on a Bay Area or Los Angeles fault, there could have been billions in property damage and injuries or even deaths.


California’s north coast is among the most seismically active areas and had experienced smaller temblors in the days before the magnitude-6.5 one. The offshore area had experienced a magnitude-6.9 temblor in March 2014 and two earthquakes with magnitudes over 5.0 weeks apart in January 2015.


The Pacific Coast or West Coast is the description of the coastline where the Western United States meets the northern Pacific Ocean. It refers to the area defined on the east by the Cascade Range, Mojave Desert, and Sierra Nevada and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Census calls the five states of California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii the Pacific States division. However, the Pacific or West Coast of the contiguous U.S. in this case would be just the first three states.