PATTERSON - A series of shakers hitting Stanislaus County is serving as a reminder for earthquake preparedness. Patterson was the epicenter of these quakes, with the largest one hitting Monday night at a 4.5 magnitude.
"You can feel it just rumble like a truck is coming at you and the whole building just started shaking," said Reyes Gauna, the superintendent of the Patterson Joint Unified School District.
Gauna told CBS13 that some students chose to stay home Tuesday because they were scared of all the earthquakes that happened.
"As adults, we get nervous with earthquakes, you can only imagine with children," said Gauna. "I think some of our students had a difficult time dealing with the earthquake."
That is why Patterson Joint Unified held earthquake drills Tuesday morning to remind students and staff how to drop, cover and hold on.
"No matter where you are, there are fault lines," said Dr. Abhijit Ghosh, an associate professor of geophysics at UC Riverside.
Dr. Ghosh called what happened in Patterson an "earthquake swarm."
CBS13 asked Dr. Ghosh if all earthquake swarms lead to something bigger. He said not always, but it could since the swarm changes the stress field underground.
"It might affect other faults nearby," said Dr. Ghosh.
He said the Patterson quakes happened with 50 miles of major fault lines like the San Andreas, Hayward, Calaveras, San Joaquin and Greenville.
"Earthquake swarms are not uncommon in California, but not every swarm leads to a damaging earthquake," Dr. Ghosh said.
It may not be possible to predict an earthquake, but what Californians can do is be prepared.
"We didn't want to take the chance of another one happening today and them not having the opportunity to practice," Gauna said.
Preparation can come in many forms.
"It is a lot better to build an experiment and have it fail and then learn from the experiment in the lab than it is to do it in the field," said Dr. Dan Wilson, the associate director of the UC Davis Center for Geotechnical Modeling.
Inside this center, Dr. Wilson is working with graduate students, running tests on how the earth's structure is going to behave during an earthquake.
"Whatever it is you are going to build, you need to make sure it is going to be stable enough for the earthquake," Dr. Wilson said.
Researchers look at what is the most practical and cost-effective way to construct a bridge, dam or building to prevent it from crumbling in a quake.
"So we can be safe when we build things or when we have to retrofit things," Dr. Wilson said.
The work at this research center has created changes to building design codes over the years, saved money on expensive retrofit projects, and avoided negative impacts on the environment that come with building.
"Seeing what's happening around the world with other massive earthquakes, it kind of brings it home," Gauna said.
Experts say the next big one in California is not a matter of if, but when.
A spokesperson for the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services told CBS13 that the shakes from Patterson were felt there. They are using this as an opportunity to remind people to secure furniture like wood pieces, cabinets and shelving so that they will not tip over.
The state also has a tool called the "MyShake" app that notifies you seconds before an earthquake hits, so you can have a moment to move to a safer spot.
Experts said we may not be able to predict when a big earthquake will hit, but we can prepare.
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