The Main Stream

May 10, 2010 2:06 PM

Will Southern Arizona get hit with a big earthquake

TUCSON - It was May 3rd, 1887, when the largest earthquake in Western U.S. history outside of California shook Southern Arizona. The 7.2 quake damaged the San Xavier Mission in Tucson.

Historian Jim Turner said, "The whole wall of the Spanish cemetery was demolished. It's just amazing not more of it crumbled."

The most damage occurred in Tombstone and Douglas. "Masonry walls crumbled. Houses that are wood-framed shook off of their foundations. If you were sitting in a chair you could be moved about two feet," recalled Turner.

The epicenter of the Great Sonoran Quake of 1887, actually occurred along a fault line in Mexico. But there are fault lines in Southern Arizona. But just how much rumbling do they cause?

Dr. Susan Beck with The University of Arizona Geosciences said, "The faults down close to the border, the ones that failed back in 1887, that fault is considered active. There's no question that it's capable of more earthquakes. The faults around the Tucson basin don't show any signs of any activity."

When's the next big one?

"Of course, we can't answer that", Beck said. "We know that there's faults in Arizona that could have damaging earthquakes on them, but they are pretty uncommon."

Uncommon, but Dr. Beck warns "you can never say never."

To track earthquakes around the world, click here to visit the USGS website.

To learn more about the 1887 earthquake that struck Southern Arizona, click here for resources compiled by the University of Arizona.


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