Watch CBS News

Next Earthquake Could Unleash Tsunami-Like Wave On Davis If Dam Fails

DAVIS (CBS13) — Predicting the next big earthquake seems to have become one part science with two parts guessing game.

UC Davis earthquake expert professor John Rundle says it's been quiet in the 25 years between the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake and Sunday's magnitude 6.0 Napa earthquake.

But he knows when Mother Nature ends her silence, she can come back with a roar.

The West Napa Fault has produced seven earthquakes since 1969. While that may not seem like much in the span of nearly half a century, the type of activity the line triggers—a strike-slip motion that triggers a sudden shift—has geologists worried.

That's because while the Napa earthquake alleviated pressure on one fault line, it may have added pressure to others nearby, including the Berryessa Fault which runs directory under the Berryessa Dam.

"And if that thing lets go and the dam fails, then a wall of water will come cascading through our area," he said.

That's an area that includes Davis, which experts warn could get slammed with a wall of water up to eight feet deep.

While the odds of a major or moderate earthquake is low in the valley, Rundle says any sizable shaker in the Bay Area can be devastating to Sacramento.

"If you have strong enough shaking the levees could fail and then inundate large sections of Sacramento," he said.

But the big question on the minds of so many after Sunday's earthquake in Napa is where will the next big one in our area be.

"The region that seems to be, that I would worry about the most, is the region between like Hollister and San Jose, up towards Napa," he said.

The impossible question to answer is when the next big earthquake will hit. When it does, we're likely to get at least a few seconds of warning.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a 10-second warning went out before Sunday's earthquake, but without a fully funded, fully operational early-warning system costing $100 million, we'll have to be ready without a moment's notice.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.