Sierra Shakes With More Than A Dozen Earthquakes

TRUCKEE (CBS13) — More than a dozen earthquakes rattled the Sierra Tuesday morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports at least 16 earthquakes hit the Truckee area since about 2 a.m. The strongest quake was a magnitude-3.9.

Could the earthquakes be linked to all the rain and snow we got last winter? A group of UC Berkeley seismologists says yes.

“I literally felt a wave under the bed, and I sat straight up.”

Tuesday morning’s earthquake woke Jessica Jacobs up from a dead sleep.

“Like what in the heck is that?” Jacobs said.

The shaking was even more alarming to this group of friends who were camping out in the wilderness.

“I was confused because it wasn’t windy and I just thought my cousin was shaking my tent.”

The quake came as a shock to one Bay Area man who woke up to a rattling closet.

“I didn’t think they were too common up here, so I was more worried something happened in the Bay.”

No, the earthquake wasn’t based out of the Bay Area, but up in the Sierra.

A group of UC Berkeley seismologists is linking the heavy winter rain and snow to more seismic activity in the region.

According to the experts, the weight of the rain and snow puts pressure on the Sierra and Coastal mountains — as the water begins to run off and dry out — the earth’s crust begins to flex, triggering those quakes.

“These stress changes are just giving it that push over the edge, and makes these faults rupture earlier,” said Christopher Johnson, a researcher at Berkeley’s Seismology Lab.

Johnson is part of the research group at UC Berkeley that released a study a few weeks ago, linking the wet winter to more quakes.
Johnson and his team looked at more than three-thousand earthquakes over a nine-year period and found a pattern — exceptionally wet winters cause an uptick in smaller quakes.

Some seismology experts aren’t onboard with the claim.

Graham Kent, the director of the Nevada Seismological Lab, says: “Typically the load of snow, even in a banner year, is not enough to trigger an earthquake swarm. We do worry that when dams are filled, an earthquake can be triggered.”

The rushing winter waters may be causing the Sierra to rattle, but one thing is crystal clear.

“We should have earthquakes that’s where we live, we don’t have tornadoes, we have earthquakes,” said one Truckee man.

More than 40 earthquakes have rattled the Truckee area in the past month according to the USGS.

Listen Live