Will The Next Big Pacific Tsunami Strike California's Coast Soon - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Will The Next Big Pacific Tsunami Strike California's Coast Soon?

FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -

More than 30 earthquakes in a week - people living near Alaska's Aleutian Islands have been feeling a lot of shaking lately.

And that's got some wondering, does that mean a big one is on the way?

Geologists say yes, we should always be prepared because a "Big One" is inevitable.

But should we expect it any time soon?

The answer to that is maybe.

This is why people in California should care - a major quake Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone could trigger a deadly tsunami that could cause death and destruction in Northern California, Washington and Oregon.

"A subduction zone is where one of the Earth's tectonic plates slides beneath another," said John Wakabayashi, a geology professor at Fresno State.

That same type of movement caused a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan which triggered that devastating tsunami in 2011.

So far the largest quake produced by the Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone this past week measured 7.0.

But the zone is capable of producing a magnitude 9.0 temblor.

And it will.

"It could happen 200, 300, 400 years from now, or it could happen tomorrow," said Wakabayashi.

If not from Alaska, the next great pacific tsunami could be produced much closer to home.

Stretching 700 miles from the northern coast of California all the way to Canada, is the Cascadia subduction zone, where two overlapping tectonic plates lie poised offshore, ready to break free in a tremendous release of energy at any time.

"We expect a magnitude 9 from the Cascadian," said Wakabayashi.

That would do a lot more damage than the 1906 quake that all but destroyed the city of San Francisco, killing an estimated 3,000  and leaving up to 300,000 more homeless.

And it would also move the waters Pacific Ocean.

"In addition to the shaking that occurs, we have these horrific tsunamis," said Wakabayashi.

Despite all the little earthquakes that have been recorded recently in the Aleutian Islands and off the coast of Canada, geologists say that does not necessarily mean a big 9.0 quake is around the corner.

In fact, with all of today's technology, scientists still cannot predict where and when an earthquake will strike.

If a major quake and tsunami did strike off the coast of northern California, we here in Fresno would probably feel the shaking, but we're so far away and so far inland, there probably won't be widespread damage here.

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