M 5.3 – 57km SW of Channel Islands Beach, California

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Earthquake that rattled L.A. area was strongest in years
The 5.3-magnitude earthquake that rattled the L.A. area on Thursday was the strongest in several years. (USGS)

Though there were no immediate reports of damage, the quake was felt across a wide area and was a blunt reminder that California is earthquake country. The U.S. Geological Survey put the epicenter about 23 miles off the Channel Islands, about 85 miles west of Los Angeles.

The last big earthquake in the Channel Islands region around Thursday’s temblor was in 1981, which was a magnitude 6.0, according to Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson.

The last quake to be felt this widely in the L.A. area was a 4.4 earthquake in Encino in 2014. That quake also shook a wide area and was the largest in the Los Angeles area in four years. It surprised seismologists because it was the strongest to hit directly under the Santa Monica Mountains in the 80 years.

A 4.8 magnitude quake near the Channel Islands rattled the region in 2013.

Damage from 1925 quake,
Damage from 1925 quake, (Los Angeles Times)

The Santa Barbara area is home to a number of earthquake faults, the largest of which is the Santa Ynez fault, which is 80 miles long and runs just north of the city. That fault is believed to be capable of triggering an earthquake as powerful as 7.5.

The great Santa Barbara quake of 1925, recorded at a magnitude 6.8, destroyed a significant portion of the city’s downtown area, damaged rail lines and caused extensive landslides on bluffs. It killed 13 people and was felt as far away as Orange County.


Updated at 1:25 p.m. with information on last big Channel Islands quake.

Originally posted at 12:55 p.m.