After string of small quakes: Expert attention is directed at some of LA’s oldest neighborhoods where casualties would be higher than a San Andres Megaquake


Important Takeaways:

  • Southern California was recently rattled by several small earthquakes. They produced minor shaking but nonetheless left psychological aftershocks in a region whose seismic vulnerabilities are matched by our willingness to put the dangers out of our minds.
  • For many, it all added to one question: Is this the beginning of something bigger?
  • First, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake in the Ojai Valley sent weak shaking from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles on May 31. Then came two small quakes under the eastern L.A. neighborhood of El Sereno, the most powerful a 3.4. Finally, a trio of tremors hit the Costa Mesa-Newport Beach border, topping out at a magnitude 3.6 Thursday.
  • Having half a dozen earthquakes with a magnitude over 2.5 in a week, hitting three distinct parts of Southern California, all in highly populated areas, is not a common occurrence.
  • But experts say these smaller quakes have no predictive power over the next major, destructive earthquake in urban Southern California, the last of which came 30 years ago.
  • Generally speaking, there is a 1 in 20 chance any earthquake in California will be followed by one that’s larger, said Susan Hough, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Those odds aren’t high, and typically, the subsequent, larger quake would occur in the same area within a week. Plus, if something bigger did happen, the odds are a new temblor would be only a little bigger, Hough said.
  • In contrast, last week’s earthquakes highlighted nearby fault systems directly under our most populated cities and could produce even worse death tolls than a San Andreas megaquake, targeting our oldest neighborhoods with many unretrofitted buildings when they rupture.
  • “All three sets of these earthquakes occurred near large, potentially dangerous faults,” said James Dolan, an earth sciences professor at USC. “The L.A. urban fault network has been in a seismic lull for the entire historic period, and this lull likely extends back on the order of the last 1,000 years. We know at some point this lull we’re in will end.”

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Swarm of Earthquakes hit Southern California


Important Takeaways:

  • Two sets of earthquake swarms have hit California. What’s going on along the Mexico border?
  • Another earthquake swarm has been rumbling along the California-Mexico border.
  • More than two dozen quakes greater than magnitude 2.5 have occurred since just after midnight Saturday, with epicenters about 175 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles and 100 miles northeast of San Diego, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • They have occurred largely along farmland between the towns of Brawley and Imperial in Imperial County. The largest quake was a magnitude 3.9 that struck at 4:05 p.m. Saturday, bringing light shaking to the Imperial Valley as well as south of the border and rattling Mexicali.
  • An even larger earthquake — a magnitude 4.1 — occurred at 5:17 a.m. Monday about 28 miles northwest of the swarm that began Saturday.
  • The epicenter of that quake was in a remote desert area east of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and weak shaking was felt as far away as San Diego, parts of Orange County, Temecula, the Coachella Valley, El Centro and Holtville.
  • A separate swarm of earthquakes occurred a week ago, about 40 miles southeast of the most recent quake activity. Last week’s swarm occurred about 18 miles southeast of Mexicali in Baja California, with the largest a magnitude 4.2 that was felt as far away as El Centro in California and Yuma, Ariz.

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Rare storm system heading toward Southern California: Dangerous flash flooding expected

Hurricane Hilary

Important Takeaways:

  • Hurricane Hilary on path toward California: “Significant flooding impacts” expected
  • A storm headed in the direction of Southern California grew into a hurricane on Thursday and later strengthened to a major Category 4 storm, the National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to bring heavy rainfall to parts of the state — as a tropical storm — after hitting Mexico.
  • The storm “is not expected to be a hurricane on final approach,” said Greg Postel, a hurricane and storm specialist at the Weather Channel who has a doctorate in atmospheric sciences.
  • The storm’s remnants are likely to bring dangerous flash flooding as well as strong winds to some parts of California, including the Los Angeles Basin, the Weather Channel reports. “Significant flooding impacts” are expected in the southwestern U.S., according to the hurricane center.
  • “It is rare — indeed nearly unprecedented in the modern record — to have a tropical system like this move through Southern California,” Postel said.
  • Forecasters said the storm is expected to produce 3 to 6 inches of rainfall, with maximum amounts of 10 inches, across portions of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula through Sunday night, with the possibility of flash flooding. Postel said there will likely be “damaging wind gusts,” especially at higher elevations, in the area, and swells along the coast.

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Southern California battles excessive heat and wildfires

So Cal Fires

Matthew 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Important Takeaways:

  • Southern California firefighters battling wildfires in 100-degree temps with 9,000 acres scorched
  • After battling blazes in triple-digit temperatures over the weekend in the eastern Los Angeles area, the FOX Forecast Center forecasts a brief and minor ease in heat for firefighters, but it won’t be long before Southern California is right back to the heat it experienced over the weekend.
  • The NWS says it expects to issue more heat advisories beginning Friday as another round of heat is expected into the weekend.
  • Over the weekend, at least four wildfires started in Southern California over the span of several hours, consuming more than 3,000 acres as temperatures there ranged from 100-105 degrees.
  • On Tuesday, the containment of several fires was promising, even with 100-degree high temperatures still forecast in Riverside and Beaumont, California.
  • Multiple fires continue to burn in Riverside County, according to CALFire, including the Rabbit Fire which has burned 8,283 acres. The fire started July 14 in Moreno Valley and is now 45% contained with over 1,500 firefighting personnel battling the blaze.
  • The Gavilan Fire in Lake Mathews is 65% contained after burning nearly 340 acres and the Reche Fire is almost completely contained after burning more than 430 acres this weekend.
  • The fires were fueled by dry and warm conditions as most of California has been under heat advisories and Excessive Heat Warnings over the past week. Several decades-old temperature records fell over the weekend, including at Lancaster Airport with 110 degrees, toppling the 109-degree record set in 1960.

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As Port of Los Angeles import backups ease, empty containers pile up

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The number of container ships waiting to enter the busiest U.S. seaport complex hit a new record of 84 on Tuesday, as growing piles of empty containers crowd docks at the Southern California facility that has been racing to remove lingering imports.

The conundrum illustrates the challenge faced by a U.S. government task force charged with tackling supply chain snarls that are contributing to product shortages and inflation.

U.S. ports have been inundated with cargo since the pandemic shifted spending away from restricted entertainment like travel and dining out to physical goods. COVID-19 also reduced labor needed to keep goods flowing smoothly. Aging truckers retired early, while infection control measures have limited dock and warehouse staffing.

There are now roughly 65,000 empty containers on the Port of Los Angeles docks, up about 18% from just a couple of weeks ago, said the port’s executive director, Gene Seroka. He added that “sweeper” ships are inbound to shuttle some of those boxes back to factories in Asia.

Meanwhile, the number of import containers at the Los Angeles port fell 25% to 71,000 since Oct. 24, Seroka said.

Railroads and truckers have made progress moving import containers off docks at the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – prompting executives from to delay imposing a new fee on overstaying imports by one week to Nov. 22.

The new fee would hit imports destined for truck removal after nine days or more on docks, and would start after six days or more for rail-bound cargo. Ports would charge ocean carriers escalating fees for overstaying container – with a $100 charge for the first day, $200 for the second, and so on.

Prior to the pandemic, containers intended for local truck deliveries spent fewer than four days on average on docks, while containers earmarked for trains stayed less than two days, the ports said.

Ocean carriers like AP Moller Maersk said they plan to pass any new fees on to importers – meaning that consumers could ultimately shoulder the extra cost.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Sandra Maler)

For Los Angeles-area ambulance crews, the COVID-19 calls never stop

By Norma Galeana and Alan Devall

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. (Reuters) – For Southern California ambulance crews, the shifts feel never-ending and the calls to pick up COVID-19 patients seem endless.

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a call volume like this,” said Eileen Cegarra, 56, an ambulance dispatch center supervisor for Care Ambulance Service, one of the largest ambulance companies in the Los Angeles area, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic.

California hospitals have grown so full of COVID-19 patients that state officials ordered hospitals to delay non-life-threatening surgeries, preserving space for serious cancer removal and necessary heart operations.

Outside many Southern California hospitals, ambulances loaded with COVID-19 patients wait for hours until space becomes available in the intensive care unit (ICU) or emergency room (ER).

Beside affecting the patients, the backlog has taken its toll on the ambulance crews who respond to calls for the sick.

“The calls don’t stop just because the crews are in the ER,” Cegarra said.

Jennifer Mueller, 30, works 24-hour shifts as a Care emergency medical technician, saying the pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll on those in her profession.

“Everyone’s exhausted. Everyone’s tired. We run the calls; we want to help people. But there’s only so much that we can do,” Mueller told Reuters during a spare moment.

Patients are left sitting on hard gurneys in the cold. About all Mueller said she can do is offer a blanket.

“They’re in pain,” she said. “It’s just, it’s heartbreaking.”

California, the most populous state with nearly 40 million people, has accounted for much of the U.S. surge since November.

State officials reported 33,751 newly recorded confirmed cases Tuesday, pushing the total to 2.8 million since the pandemic began a year ago.

In Los Angeles County, with a population of about 10 million, COVID-19 kills someone every eight minutes, health officials say.

Every minute, 10 people test positive in L.A. County, and more than 1 percent of those who test positive end up dead, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Dispatcher Jaime Hopper, 29, has seen the tragedy first hand.

“The other day I had I think at one time nine calls sitting. So, that’s nine people that are in distress,” Hopper said. “So, it’s a little bit, it’s unnerving, but you kind of just got to do what you can.”

(Reporting by Norma Galeana and Alan Devall; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

No intensive care beds for most Californians as COVID-19 surges

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) -There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated Southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.

The pandemic is crushing hospitals in the most-populous U.S. state, even as the U.S. government and two of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains began a nationwide campaign on Monday to vaccinate nursing home residents against the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The U.S. death toll from the virus has accelerated in recent weeks to 2,627 per day on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has said U.S. COVID-19 deaths will peak in January, when its widely cited model projects that more than 100,000 people will die as the toll marches to nearly 562,000 by April 1.

Nationwide, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday stood at nearly 113,400, near a record high of over 114,200 set on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

In California, Newsom told a remote news conference he had requested help from nurses, doctors and medical technicians in the U.S. military, and is hoping that 200 people can be deployed. The state has also sent nearly 700 additional medical staff to beleaguered hospitals, and opened up clinics in unused state buildings, a closed sports arena and other locations.

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said many hospitals in the state may also soon run out of room for patients who need to be admitted but do not require intensive care.

Ghaly told the news conference the current surge was related to gatherings that took place over the Thanksgiving holiday and that a similar surge is expected after Christmas and New Year’s, he said.

Newsom pleaded with Californians to comply with stay-at-home orders that restrict activity in most but not all of the state. “We are not victims of fate,” he said.

The governor added that the strain of the virus ravaging California was not the new, highly contagious version emerging in the UK, Newsom said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney)

Firefighters move in on Southern California canyon blaze despite high winds

By Dan Whitcomb and Gabriella Borter

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Firefighters battling a blaze in a Southern California canyon made some progress toward containment but were up against more high winds and low humidity on Friday, which threatened to stoke the flames as they tore through wooded hillsides.

The Bond Fire, which had forced some 25,000 people in Orange County to evacuate, broke out around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night on the street for which it is named and quickly engulfed Silverado Canyon, egged on by strong Santa Ana winds.

“Firefighters worked through the night extinguishing hot spots, mopping up around structures and stopping the forward spread of this fire,” Captain Paul Holaday of Orange County Fire Authority said in a video posted to Twitter on Friday.

Air and ground units were focused on protecting the canyon communities of Silverado, Santiago, Williams and Modjesca on Friday, Holaday said.

In a Friday morning bulletin, the National Weather Service said a red flag warning for high gusty winds was in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday for the inland portion of Orange County, where officials said the Bond Fire still held claim to some 6,400 acres. The strongest winds were expected Friday morning.

Two firefighters involved in the effort were injured and transported to a local hospital for further treatment, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter on Thursday.

The blaze was 10% contained as of Friday morning.

Woodsy Silverado Canyon, miles from Southern California’s suburban sprawl up a single winding road, is home to an eclectic mix of residents including artists, horse owners and ranchers.

Fire officials have not yet said what they believe to be the cause of the fire, although Silverado Canyon and Bond Road resident Giovanna Gibson, 60, told Reuters that neighbors believed the blaze ignited when the owners of a home without power tried to start their generator and it exploded.

Since the start of the year, wildfires have scorched more than 6,500 square miles (17,000 square km) of California land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The yearly land area burned in the western United States has grown eight times larger in less than four decades, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station said in research published last month.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Diane Craft)

Magnitude 5.5 earthquake rocks Southern California, no immediate reports of damage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday in the California desert about 150 miles (241 km) northeast of Los Angeles, but there were no reports of damage or injuries in the sparsely populated area.

The temblor hit in a sparsely populated area near the Mojave Desert community of Searles Valley but was felt across Southern California, as far away as Los Angeles itself.

A series of strong of earthquakes and aftershocks struck that area near the small town of Ridgecrest on July 4 and 5 of last year. Such quakes are not uncommon in seismically active California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Kim Coghill)