Just shake it off: Damaging earthquakes are rare

David Brumbaugh

by David Brumbaugh
Professor and director of Arizona Earthquake Information Center

Sunday’s earthquake that rocked Flagstaff and the Verde Valley was truly a wakeup call. It left many residents in shock and gave them a sense of insecurity.

So the first thing to remember is that although earthquake prediction is not a reality yet, we are at least fortunate here in Arizona because they are infrequent and often widely distributed in our state.

This tremor was the first felt in Flagstaff since the 1993 magnitude 5.2 west of Valle, Arizona.

The majority of tremors that do occur are in the northern part of the state. They occur frequently, but most are too small to even be felt.

Can we expect another felt and potentially damaging earthquake soon?

The aftershocks from the Nov. 30 tremor have been decreasing over the past three days, suggesting that we are near the end of this sequence of earthquakes. So the odds are in our favor.

What about the possibility of a larger and damaging quake for Flagstaff? We have faults in the area that, given enough stored stress along them, would produce an earthquake that could cause local damage. But careful monitoring of these faults by the Arizona Earthquake Information Center over the last 30 years does not show any imminent danger for us. So relax folks, some of you have at least a few stories to tell your families and friends.