5.9 magnitude earthquake rocks California-Nevada border, leads to dozens of aftershocks

A series of 19 earthquakes struck along the California-Nevada border. The earthquake was felt in areas as far away as Sacramento and the Bay Area

                            5.9 magnitude earthquake rocks California-Nevada border, leads to dozens of aftershocks
A crack runs down the center of an earthquake-damaged street on August 26, 2014, in Napa, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A large earthquake struck the California-Nevada border on July 9. Recorded with a magnitude of 5.9, it was followed by at least a dozen aftershocks. So far there have been no reports of loss of life or major structural damage, but caution is urged as the effects are yet to be assessed.

Californians are no stranger to the natural events, that occur numerous times each year. We reported on a 4.2 magnitude quake that struck the state on June 28. Luckily that appeared to be minor as well, with little to no damage being reported. In 2020, two major quakes struck the area. In September, a quake with a magnitude of 4.6 was recorded in Southern California but did not leave any serious damage. However, in May, a massive 6.5 quake was recorded in Nevada, the largest in 66 years. That led to serious damage to the Las Vegas-Reno highway. 


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Ridgecrest residents inspect a recent fault rupture following two large earthquakes in the area on July 7, 2019, near Ridgecrest, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A series of 19 earthquakes struck along the California-Nevada border starting just before 4 pm Thursday, July 8, most of which struck with a magnitude of about 3.0. The largest reported earthquake was a 5.9 tremblor, the US Geological Survey reported. The latest quake occurred at roughly 3:49 pm local time, centered near Markleeville in Alpine County, about 20 miles southwest of Smith Valley. It was felt as far as Fresno, Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Occurring at a depth of six miles, the quake caused rock slides on US 395, leading to a temporary closure of the highway. The State Department of Transportation announced the closure of 40 miles of highway, from Willow Springs to the Nevada border. The following aftershocks were felt as far as San Francisco and Carson City. US 395 southbound was closed at the Nevada-California board near Topaz Lake following a rock slide, according to the California Highway Patrol. Northbound lanes were closed at US 395 and State Route 182 in California. 

The reason for the wide range has to do with the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The region "ring like a bell when an earthquake happens there. So they transmit the earthquake energy really well,"  Keith Knudsen, deputy director of the USGS’ Earthquake Science Center told LA Times. Reno City Hall was evacuated after the earthquake, said Mayor Hillary Schieve. "It shook pretty good," Schieve said. 

The Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) put out a tweet claiming two quakes had taken place, the second with a magnitude of 4.8 whose epicenter was near Farmington in San Joaquin County. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) did confirm the second earthquake of magnitude 4.6, but it was recorded and reported at around 40:30 pm with the epicenter 18 miles from Dardanelle, California. It is unclear if this is the same quake the OES was referring to. Regionally, “this would be the largest one in almost two and a half decades,” Graham Kent, director of the University of Nevada, Reno’s seismological lab told the Reno Gazette Journal. “It’s 5.9 and some change – to the average person, it’s a magnitude 6.0.”

According to the USGS, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake can cause considerable damage

a map showing the range of the effects of the earthquake on July 8, 2021, in Northern California. (USGS)


'Nothing serious, but super unusual

People instantly took to social media to record their experiences, and report some of the fallout that occurred. One person tweeted video footage of i395 and said, "Boulders everywhere after earthquake on i395." Another tweeted, "There have been 20 earthquakes in Northern California in the last hour. Nothing serious but super unusual."




One person joked, "I woke up this morning thinking about doing something different and shaking things up in life. Yo, I'm going to watch what I say because an earthquake is NOT what I had in mind. Ok Lord, power of the tongue. I got it. Lesson learned." Another said, "Im convinced yall trynna shake california into the damn ocean. Too many earthquakes happening back to back."




"Got hit with another earthquake. This one was a little stronger than the last one. Don't be surprised if I'm tweeting from one of the California islands," one person tweeted.



 According to a three-year data sample, California is struck by an average of five earthquakes with magnitudes between 5.0 and 6.0 each year. There were reports of numerous aftershocks and the USGS has recorded numerous other tremors with magnitudes between 2.1 and 3.0 in the hours since. Most of the tremors appear to be centered near the towns of Dadarnelle, and Markleeville.