Facts about California Earthquakes

  • The first strong recorded earthquake occurred in the Los Angeles region in 1769 with four violent shocks about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles
  • An earthquake on May 25, 1803, damaged the San Diego Mission church.
  • A strong earthquake destroyed a church and killed forty persons attending services at San Juan Capistrano on December 8, 1812.
  • A violent earthquake near Fort Tejon in January 1857 downed buildings and large trees. This earthquake has been compared to that of the 1906 earthquake.
  • Thirty people were killed in the region of Hayward and San Leandro due to a strong earthquake that occurred on the Hayward fault in October 1868. Until the 1906 earthquake, this earthquake was called "the great earthquake."
  • In March 1872, an earthquake in the Sierra-Nevada Fault system killed 27 people at Lone Pine and destroyed 52 to 59 adobe homes.
  • Nearly all brick structures were wrecked and many frame buildings were damaged in Vacaville by an earthquake on April 19, 1892.
  • On Christmas Day of 1899, six persons died and several were injured in Saboda, near San Jacinto, by a strong earthquake.
  • Seven hundred persons died on April 18, 1906, in one of the greatest earthquakes ever to hit California. Damage was extensive in San Francisco and was increased perhaps tenfold by raging fires. Total damage was estimated at over $500 million.
  • Two destructive earthquakes nearly one hour apart caused about $1 million property damage in southern Imperial Valley on June 22, 1915. Six people were killed and several injured by the second earthquake at Mexicali, located just inside the Mexican border.
  • Santa Barbara suffered $8 million damage and 13 fatalities from an offshore shock in June 1925.
  • The earthquake of November 1927 wrecked chimneys at Lompoc, shifted a house on its foundation, and caused heavy earth and rockslides on steep slopes.
  • The Long Beach earthquake of March 1933 resulted in $40 million in damages and 115 lives lost.
  • The May 1940 Imperial Valley earthquake killed nine people. At Imperial, 80 percent of the building were damaged and about 50 percent had been condemned. This earthquake was the first strong test of public schools designed to be earthquake-resistive after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Fifteen such public schools in the area had no apparent damage.
  • The towns of Tehacapi and Arvin were hit severely by the July 1952 Kern County earthquake. Twelve people died, many were injured, and $60 million property damage was sustained.
  • On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake ended decades of tranquility in the San Francisco Bay region. Minutes before the scheduled start of the third game of the 1989 World Series in San Francisco, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked the California coast from Monterey to San Francisco. Centered near Loma Prieta peak in the mountains south of San Jose, the quake killed 63 people and caused an estimated $6 billion to $10 billion in property loss. It was the first large temblor to jolt the burgeoning urban region since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (magnitude 7.8).
  • The Northridge earthquake of January 17, 1994, displaced more than 20,000 people from their homes in a modern urban environment generally designed for seismic resistance. There were 57 deaths and economic losses were estimated at $20 billion.

Listed below are the major earthquakes that occurred in California, Nevada and Baja, California from 1769 to present. The list includes all known earthquakes with a magnitude of at least 6 and selected smaller events.

DATE MAGNITUDE LOCATION
July 28, 1769 6.0 Los Angeles Basin
November 22, 1800 6.5 *** San Diego region ***
June 24, 1808 6.0 San Francisco region
December 1812 7.0 Wrightwood
December 21, 1812 7.0 Santa Barbara Channel
September 24, 1827 5.5 Los Angeles region
June 10, 1836 6.75 Hayward Valley
June 1838 7.0 San Francisco Peninsula
November 29, 1852 6.5 Volcano Lake, B.C.
July 11, 1855 6.0 Los Angeles region
February 15, 1856 5.5 San Francisco Peninsula
January 9, 1857 8.25 Great Fort Tejon earthquake
September 3, 1857 6.25 W. Nevada or E. Sierra Nevada
November 26, 1858 6.25 San Jose region
December 16, 1858 6.0 San Bernardino region
March 15, 1860 6.5 Carson City, Nevada region
May 27, 1862 6.0 *** San Diego region ***
February 26, 1864 6.0 S. Santa Cruz Mountains
March 5, 1864 5.75 E. of San Francisco Bay
October 8, 1865 6.5 S. Santa Cruz Mountains
July 15, 1866 6.0 W. San Joaquin Valley
May 30, 1868 6.0 Virginia City, Nevada
October 21, 1868 7.0 Hayward fault
December 27, 1869 6.25 Olinghouse fault, Nevada
December 27, 1869 6.0 Carson City, Nevada region
February 17, 1870 6.0 Los Gatos
March 2, 1871 6.0 Cape Mendocino
March 26, 1872 7.6 Owens Valley
March 26, 1872 6.75 Owens Valley
April 3, 1872 6.25 Owens Valley
April 11, 1872 6.75 Owens Valley
May 3, 1872 5.75 Imperial Valley
November 12, 1872 6.0 Austin, Nevada region
November 23, 1873 6.75 Crescent City
January 24, 1875 6.0 Honey Lake
November 15, 1875 6.25 Imperial Vly to Colorado R. delta
May 9, 1878 6.0 Punta Gorda region
February 2, 1881 5.75 Parkfield
April 10, 1881 6.0 W. San Joaquin Valley
March 6, 1882 5.75 Hollister
September 5, 1883 6.25 Santa Barbara Channel
January 28, 1884 5.75 Klamath Mountains
March 26, 1884 6.0 Santa Cruz Mountains
January 31, 1885 5.75 Susanville
April 12, 1885 6.25 S. Diablo Range
June 3, 1887 6.5 Carson City, Neveda region
April 29, 1888 6.0 Mohawk Valley
May 19, 1889 6.25 Antioch
June 20, 1889 6.0 Susanville
September 30, 1889 5.75 Bishop region
February 9, 1890 6.5 San Jacinto or Elsinore fault region
April 24, 1890 6.25 Pajaro Gap
July 26, 1890 6.25 Cape Mendocino
July 30, 1891 6.0 Colorado R. delta region
February 24, 1892 7.0 Laguna Salada, B.C.
April 19, 1892 6.5 Vacaville
April 21, 1892 6.25 Winters
May 28, 1892 6.5 San Jacinto or Elsinore fault region
November 13, 1892 5.75 Hollister
May 19, 1893 5.75 Pico Canyon
July 30, 1894 6.0 Lytle Creek region
September 30, 1894 6.0 Cape Mendocino region
October 23, 1894 5.75 *** E. of San Diego ***
August 17, 1896 6.0 SE Sierra Nevada
June 20, 1897 6.25 Gilroy
March 31, 1898 6.5 Mare Island
April 15, 1898 6.5 Mendocino
April 16, 1899 7.0 W. of Eureka
July 6, 1899 5.75 Morgan Hill
July 22, 1899 5.75 Lytle Creek region
December 25, 1899 6.4 San Jacinto and Hemet
March 3, 1901 6.4 Parkfield
January 24, 1903 6.6 Colorado R. delta region
June 11, 1903 5.5 San Jose
August 3, 1903 5.5 San Jose
April 18, 1906 8.25 Great San Francisco earthquake
April 19, 1906 6.2 Imperial Valley
April 23, 1906 6.4 Arcata
September 20, 1907 5.3 San Bernardino region
November 4, 1908 6.0 Death Valley region
October 29, 1909 5.8 Cape Mendocino
March 11, 1910 5.8 Watsonville
March 19, 1910 6.0 W. of Cape Mendocino
May 15, 1910 5.5 Glen Ivy Hot Springs
August 5, 1910 6.6 W. of Crescent City
July 1, 1911 6.5 Calaveras fault
February 18, 1914 5.5 Truckee region
April 24, 1914 6.0 Truckee region
May 6, 1915 6.2 W. of Cape Mendocino
June 23, 1915 6.0 Imperial Valley
June 23, 1915 5.9 Imperial Valley
October 3, 1915 7.3 Pleasant Valley, Nevada
November 21, 1915 7.1 Volcano Lake, B.C.
December 31, 1915 6.5 W. of Eureka
February 3, 1916 5.9 N. of Pleasant Valley, Nevada
October 23, 1916 5.3 Tejon Pass region
November 10, 1916 6.1 S. of Death Valley
April 21, 1918 6.9 San Jacinto
July 15, 1918 6.5 W. of Eureka
January 26, 1922 6.0 W. of Eureka
January 31, 1922 7.3 W. of Eureka
January 22, 1923 7.2 Cape Mendocino
July 23, 1923 6.0 San Bernardino region
June 4, 1925 6.0 W. of Eureka
June 29, 1925 6.3 Santa Barbara
October 22, 1926 6.1 Monterey Bay
October 22, 1926 6.1 Monterey Bay
December 10, 1926 6.0 W. of Cape Mendocino
September 18, 1927 6.0 Bishop region
November 4, 1927 7.3 SW of Lompoc
June 6, 1932 6.4 Eureka
December 21, 1932 7.2 Cedar Mountain, Nevada
January 5, 1933 5.9 Cedar Mountain, Nevada
March 11, 1933 6.3 Long Beach
June 25, 1933 6.1 Yerington, Nevada
January 30, 1934 6.3 Excelsior Mountain, Nevada
June 8, 1934 6.0 Parkfield
July 6, 1934 6.5 W. of Eureka
December 30, 1934 6.5 Laguna Salada, B.C.
December 31, 1934 7.0 Colorado R. delta
February 24, 1935 5.3 Colorado R. delta
June 3, 1936 5.9 W. of Cape Mendocino
March 25, 1937 6.0 Buck Ridge
February 8, 1940 6.0 Chico
May 19, 1940 7.1 Imperial Valley
December 7, 1940 5.5 Colorado R. delta
February 9, 1941 6.6 W. of Cape Mendocino
April 9, 1941 5.3 Gulf of California
May 13, 1941 6.0 W. of Cape Mendocino
July 1, 1941 5.9 Carpenteria
September 14, 1941 5.8 Tom's Place
September 14, 1941 6.0 Tom's Place
October 3, 1941 6.4 W. of Cape Mendocino
October 21, 1942 6.5 Fish Creek Mountains
December 3, 1942 5.9 N. of Wadsworth, Nevada
May 19, 1945 6.2 W. of Cape Mendocino
September 28, 1945 6.0 W. of Crescent City
March 15, 1946 6.3 Walker Pass
April 10, 1947 6.4 Manix
December 4, 1948 6.5 Desert Hot Springs
December 29, 1948 6.0 Verdi, Nevada
March 25, 1949 6.2 W. of Eureka
May 2, 1949 5.9 Pinto Mountain
October 8, 1951 6.0 W. Of Cape Mendocino
December 26, 1951 5.9 San Clemente Island
July 21, 1952 7.7 Kern County earthquake
July 21, 1952 6.4 Kern County
July 23, 1952 6.1 Kern County
July 29, 1952 6.1 Bakersfield
November 22, 1952 6.0 Bryson
January 12, 1954 5.9 W. of Wheeler Ridge
March 19, 1954 6.2 Arroyo Salada
July 6, 1954 6.6 Rainbow Mountain, Nevada
July 6, 1954 6.4 Rainbow Mountain, Nevada
August 24, 1954 6.8 Stillwater, Nevada
August 31, 1954 6.3 Stillwater, Nevada
October 24, 1954 6.0 W. of Santo Tomas, B.C.
November 12, 1954 6.3 W. of Santo Tomas, B.C.
November 25, 1954 6.5 W. of Cape Mendocino
December 16, 1954 7.1 Fairview Peak, Nevada
December 16, 1954 6.8 Dixie Valley, Nevada
December 21, 1954 6.6 E. of Arcata
February 9, 1956 6.8 San Miguel, B.C.
February 9, 1956 6.1 San Miguel, B.C.
February 14, 1956 6.3 San Miguel, B.C.
February 15, 1956 6.4 San Miguel, B.C.
October 11, 1956 6.0 W. of Cape Mendocino
December 13, 1956 6.0 W. shore, Gulf of California
March 23, 1959 6.3 Dixie Valley, Nevada
June 23, 1959 6.1 Schurz, Nevada
August 9, 1960 6.2 W. of Cape Mendocino
June 28, 1966 6.0 Parkfield
August 7, 1966 6.3 Gulf of California
September 12, 1966 6.0 Truckee
April 9, 1968 6.5 Borrego Mountain
June 26, 1968 5.4 Punta Gorda
February 9, 1971 6.5 San Fernando
February 21, 1973 5.2 Point Mugu
November 26, 1976 6.3 W. of Orick
August 6, 1979 5.7 Coyote Lake
October 15, 1979 6.5 Imperial Valley
January 24, 1980 5.8 Livermore
May 25, 1980 6.1 Mammoth Lakes
May 25, 1980 5.9 Mammoth Lakes
May 25, 1980 5.8 Mammoth Lakes
May 27, 1980 6.0 Mammoth Lakes
June 9, 1980 6.4 Victoria, B.C.
November 8, 1980 7.2 W. of Eureka
April 26, 1981 6.0 Westmorland
September 4, 1981 5.9 N. of Santa Barbara Island
September 30, 1981 5.8 Mammoth Lakes
May 2, 1983 6.5 Coalinga
July 22, 1983 5.7 Coalinga
April 24, 1984 6.1 Morgan Hill
September 10, 1984 6.7 Mendocino Fracture Zone
November 23, 1984 5.7 Round Valley
August 4, 1985 5.9 North Kettleman Hills
July 8, 1986 6.0 North Palm Springs
July 20, 1986 5.6 Chalfant Valley
July 21, 1986 6.2 Chalfant Valley
July 31, 1986 5.2 Chalfant Valley
October 1, 1987 5.8 Whittier Narrows
November 24, 1987 6.2 Elmore Ranch fault
November 24, 1987 6.6 Superstition Hills
October 17, 1989 7.1 Loma Prieta
August 16, 1991 6.3 W. of Crescent City
August 17, 1991 6.2 Punta Gorda
August 17, 1991 7.1 W. of Crescent City
April 23, 1992 6.1 Joshua Tree
April 25, 1992 7.2 Cape Mendocino
April 26, 1992 6.5 Cape Mendocino
April 26, 1992 6.6 Cape Mendocino
June 28, 1992 7.3 Landers
June 28, 1992 6.2 Big Bear
May 17, 1993 6.1 Big Pine
January 17, 1994 6.7 Northridge
September 1, 1994 6.9 Mendocino Fracture Zone
September 12, 1994 6.0 Carter's Station, Nevada
February 19, 1995 6.6 W. of Eureka
September 20, 1995 5.5 Ridgecrest
July 24, 1996 5.7 W. of Eureka
January 22, 1997 5.7 Punta Gorda
August 1, 1999 5.7 Scotty's Junction, Nevada
October 16, 1999 7.1 Hector Mine

Source: United States Geological Survey
Recent earthquakes map: United States Geological Survey
Table adapted from California Department of Insurance