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Did Drought Lead to 6.0 Quake in California? Residents Wonder

First Posted: Aug 24, 2014 06:31 PM EDT
Did Drought Lead to 6.0 Quake in California? Residents Wonder

Photo : Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of a disruptive 6.0-magnitude earthquake that caused widespread injuries and property damage to California's wine country, scientists aren't yet blaming the drought for the event, but residents are worried.

Recent reports that the earth's crust covering the Golden State region has risen a sixth of an inch, due to loss of groundwater amid the crippling drought throughout the western United States, has prompted residents in the Greater Los Angeles to start wondering if the lack of water was at least partly responsible for the latest shaker.

"I understand the tensions caused to the earth by the drought and also by fracking for oil is leading to increased seismic activity," said Maria, a caller to a recent radio talk show who described herself as a beautician and mother of two. "How can we know for sure what the impact is of anything we're doing to the environment? Are we going to cause 'The Big One?'"

Said Tony, another caller to the same afternoon radio talk show: "I think nature's working against us because we're not taking care of nature ... it feels like something more is coming ... I'll send you my forwarding address."

The magnitude-6.0 quake, which struck about six miles south of the wine country community of Napa around 3:20 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey, ruptured water mains and gas lines and damaged some of the region's famed wineries, according to an Associated Press report

Residents ran out of their homes in the darkness.

The earthquake also left at least 120 people injured, said officials at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, where a triage tent was set up to handle the influx of hurt locals.

Three people were critically injured: two adults and a child, the latter of whom was struck by flying debris from a collapsed fireplace and had to be airlifted to a specialty hospital for a neurological evaluation, the AP story said.

Most patients had cuts, bumps and bruises suffered either during the quake itself or afterward, when they tried to flee or clean up their homes, hospital CEO Walt Mickens said.

The temblor was the largest to shake the state's Bay Area since the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which caused part of the Bay Bridge to collapse and killed more than 60 people, most when an Oakland freeway fell.

Nonetheless, scientists say that even though the drought has caused tectonic plates underneath the region to rise, it has not increased the chance for earthquakes.

The loss of 63 trillion gallons of groundwater has lifted the Earth's crust by nearly a sixth of an inch in that region and just over half an inch in California's mountains.

A recent study published in the journal Science shows that the soil is rising due to a lack of groundwater to weigh it down.

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