Big SoCal Earthquake Could Cause Beach Areas to Sink Up to 3 Feet in Seconds, New Study Finds

The observations for the first time suggest that earthquakes as large as magnitudes 6.8 to 7.5 have struck the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault system, which stretches from the Westside of Los Angeles through Long Beach and the Orange County coast to downtown San Diego. Seal Beach, one area that would be impacted, is seen in this file photo.(Credit: KTLA)

The Newport-Inglewood fault has long been considered one of Southern California’s top seismic danger zones because it runs under some of the region’s most densely populated areas, from the Westside of Los Angeles to the Orange County coast.

But new research shows that the fault may be even more dangerous than experts had believed, capable of producing more frequent destructive temblors than previously suggested by scientists.

A new study has uncovered evidence that major earthquakes on the fault centuries ago were so violent that they caused a section of Seal Beach near the Orange County coast to fall 1½ to 3 feet in a matter of seconds.

“It’s not just a gradual sinking. This is boom — it would drop. It’s very rapid sinking,” said the lead author of the report, Robert Leeper, a geology graduate student at UC Riverside who worked on the study as a Cal State Fullerton student and geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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