SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A large earthquake struck in a remote area of western Nevada early Friday. The quake — initially reported by the U.S. Geological Service at a magnitude of 6.4 — could be felt in Sacramento, more than 300 miles away.
The quake was reported just after 4 a.m. PDT near Tonopah, Nev., about 100 miles east of Yosemite National Park and roughly halfway between Reno and Las Vegas.
Twitter was full of people reporting they felt the earthquake in Sacramento, Fresno and the San Francisco Bay Area. It was followed by a series of small aftershocks, the USGS reported.
Friday's earthquake was close in magnitude to a 6.5 earthquake that hit the Boise, Idaho, area on March 31.
Some of the most recent earthquakes and aftershocks felt in Northern California came in March and shook the coast, with magnitude 4.8 and 5.8 quakes striking about 50 miles west of Petrolia in Humboldt County.
According to a previous story in The Sacramento Bee, while the likelihood of a significant earthquake in Sacramento is considerably lower than in the Bay Area, that doesn't mean it can't occur, said Richard Armstrong, a Sacramento State professor who studies earthquake engineering.
"It's just less likely," he said.
Still, even if Sacramento doesn't face the same earthquake threat as other cities such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, "it has felt the effects of earthquakes in the past and likely will in the future," according to California Geological Survey spokesman Don Drysdale.
For example, if a major earthquake were to hit near the city, the shaking could loosen sandy soil deposits, allowing water to penetrate and saturate the earth. The liquified soil could then lose its strength, cracking and moving underneath structures like levees and buildings, Drysdale said.
In downtown Sacramento and other areas near the American River or the Sacramento River, most of the land has young sedimentary river deposits and a high water table.
"Those are two of the three major ingredients that create liquefaction," Drysdale said in an email. "The only missing ingredient for liquefaction in Sacramento is earthquake shaking."
Sacramento County could experience strong shaking during a large earthquake, but the resulting damage would be less than areas near major active faults such as the Bay Area.
Buildings specifically designed to withstand earthquakes and other "well-built" structures would likely survive a major earthquake, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Shoddier buildings may have considerable damage or collapse entirely.
In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey created animations of different earthquake scenarios along the Hayward Fault, a major active fault that runs under East Bay, including Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose.
Simulations of a strong magnitude-6.8 earthquake or more show Sacramento would likely experience significant shaking — the kind that would awaken most, and cause some dishes and windows to move or break, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
But smaller earthquakes are far more common, and those are usually experienced without an issue in Sacramento.