There have been 54 major earthquakes in California since 1900, defined as an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.5, and/or causing loss of life or property damage greater than $200,000, according to the California Geological Survey. The last major earthquake was a magnitude 6.5 and occurred on December 22, 2003 in San Simeon, causing substantial damage in nearby Paso Robles.

With 54 major earthquakes over the past 115+ years, one major earthquake occurs on average every 2.1 years. Therefore, it appears California is well overdue for a major earthquake.

Where will the next big earthquake occur?

Statistically, the next “big one” (of around magnitude 8.0) will occur along the southern end of the San Andreas Fault, according to geologist Pat Abbott of San Diego State University.

Most of California’s populated areas are located in or near an earthquake hazard zone. The exception is California’s Central Valley, encompassing cities like Fresno and Sacramento (property lying east of I-5 north of Delano and south of Redding). Here, you are as safe as you can be (in California) from earthquakes.


The map above shows a broad picture of earthquake fault zones — the yellow and red boxes — in Southern California (the blue boxes are landslide and liquefaction zones and the red boxes are both earthquake and landslide zones).

There are 105 cities in California that contain earthquake hazard zones (view the list here). However, just because a city is listed doesn’t mean that the entire city is in an earthquake hazard zone. To find out if a specific property is located in an earthquake hazard zone or any other hazard zone, view maps at the property’s local planning department.

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