The biggest California earthquake of 2019 hit the state this weekend

A magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck off the Humboldt County coast.
(U.S. Geological Survey)

Northern California was a bit rattled this weekend when a magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck off the Humboldt County coast.

It was the biggest quake so far this year in California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Elizabeth Cochran, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, said the last time the area saw a similar magnitude quake was a 5.7 quake in January 2015.

Still, Saturday’s event wasn’t particularly unusual as the region has seen several quakes with magnitudes between 4.0 to 4.5 this year, she said.


For one of the most seismically active areas of the state, Saturday’s quake was far from the biggest residents have experienced.

This area shows people who reported feeling the quake.
(U.S. Geological Survey)

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The region has seen some of the state biggest recorded earthquakes in recent decades.

Cochran said most of the earthquakes have been off-shore, lessening the chances of destruction because they’re not happening beneath population centers with high risk factors. Still, others have caused damage and injuries.

The North Coast sits along the Mendocino Triple Junction, where the Pacific, North American and Gorda tectonic plates collide, a key reason the area has seen so many big quakes.

In 2014, a magnitude 6.9 quake struck the region. A much bigger, magnitude 7.3 quake hit in 1922. The North Coast saw 7.2 quakes in 1923, 1980, 1992 and 1994, according to the California Department of Conservation.

The Mendocino Triple Junction sits off the North Coast of California.
(U.S. Geological Survey)

Saturday night’s quake was felt across the North Coast, including in Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna, according to the USGS. Residents as far south as the Bay Area also reported feeling the temblor.

It was preceded by a 3.3 quake and followed Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 aftershock.

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