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Inland 'quake swarm' rumbles on

March 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A "earthquake swarm" continues to shake the Salton Sea area, for the sixth day in a row. Scientists are watching closely, because the swarm is near a section of the San Andreas Fault that hasn't produced a large quake in more than 300 years. In Bombay Beach, they've had more than 90 earthquakes in the past 24 hours, and more than 250 in the in the past few days. Nothing huge: the strongest was a 4.8. But for residents along the shores of the Salton Sea, it's been a rattling week.

"Well it scared the bejesus out of me," said one area resident.

"I felt the roll first, because it was a roller it wasn't a jumper," said another.

"Well the only thing I felt is, like I said, just ... like the earth dropping, 'boom boom,' and then shake rattle and roll," said Bombay Beach resident Joe Schworm.

Joe Schworm has lived in Bombay Beach for 15 years. He says folks around the area are used to earthquakes, but there's never been a swarm like this.

"They started Saturday afternoon and they just been rumbling ever since then," said Schworm

The epicenter of most of the quakes in this recent swarm is actually a couple of miles away, somewhere out in the Salton Sea. But the big concern is how close we are to mountains, the southern tip of the San Andreas Fault, the fault that could produce the so-called 'big one'."

"It definitely is an area that we have on our minds all the time," said CalTech Seismologist Kate Hutton. "But I don't think these earthquakes are not going to cause enough strain. I mean, we don't know how many straws are already on the camel's back. That's the big question. But this is adding another straw -- it's not a heavy backpack."

Seismologists say it's true: We're overdue for an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 or greater.

"None of us is ever going to know when the big one's going to be there," said Hutton. "It is like when they say if the world's going to come to a standstill, we'll never know it."

Maybe the numbers speak for themselves. Since 1932, there have been more than 700 earthquakes recorded in and around Bombay Beach. But almost half of them were recorded in the past few days.


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