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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The earthquake that shook central Arizona last weekend may be less of a fluke than you’d think

Jesus Barrera
Inside the Geoscience building in the Gould Simpson Building on UA campus on Thursday, Nov. 5.

A string of moderate earthquakes struck the metro Phoenix area in the late evening Sunday. While there were no reports of damages or injuries from the quakes, Arizona residents felt the shake from Black Canyon City, the city closest to the epicenter, all the way to Queen Creek.

Lynn Jackson, a Cave Creek local, was sleeping in her bed, waiting for the work week to begin, when she was woken up by the largest quake at 11:29 p.m., which had a magnitude of 4.1.

Jackson explained that she has lived in the city for 19 years and has never experienced an earthquake in Arizona before Sunday.

“It felt like somebody had slammed into the side of my bed,” Jackson said.

The first earthquake was recorded at a 3.2 magnitude around 8:59 p.m. Two more moderate tremors shook the northern area surrounding Black Canyon City.

According to the Arizona Geological Survey, the first quake was at a shallow depth of about 0.6 of a mile. The second, the mainshock of the sequence of earthquakes, was recorded to be 7 miles under the Earth’s surface. The final quake, with a magnitude of 4.0, was recorded at 11:49 p.m., with a depth of 3 miles.

For right now, the tectonic plate responsible for the series of quakes remains unknown. However, contrary to popular belief, earthquakes in Arizona are not all that uncommon.

An adjunct researcher for the UA Department of Geosciences, Jon Spencer, explained that earthquakes in Arizona are nothing to be surprised about. In fact, Spencer said they happen all the time.

“There have been earthquakes in Arizona of this size every few years,” Spencer said. “I don’t think it means anything for the future, it is just a natural process — kind of like the Earth relieving stress.”

Spencer has been an adjunct researcher with the UA since 1990 and currently works for the Arizona Geological Survey as a senior geologist.

While there is an active fault near the Tucson area and there have been major quakes in the past, Spencer urged people not to worry about the moderate quakes.

“Arizona has had some major earthquakes, like the one near Douglas in 1887. If we had something like that, it would obviously cause some damage, but those are rare,” he said. “These small earthquakes are like the weather; they are just a natural thing and are nothing to be alarmed about.”

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