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Baja earthquake hits close to San Diego

While it struck more than 100 miles away, this morning's earthquake was strong enough to shake parts of San Diego County. The U.S. Geological Survey measures it as a 6.2 magnitude quake. KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen talked with those who work year-round to understand earthquakes, and how communities like San Diego can withstand them.

A preliminary magnitude-6.2 earthquake shook Baja California and parts of San Diego on Tuesday morning.

The earthquake was reported just before 8:40 a.m. off the coast near Vicente Guerrero, south of Ensenada and 135 miles southeast of San Diego, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

“What we've just experienced (Tuesday) morning was another movement, another northward movement of the western edge — of the continent north towards Alaska,” said Pat Abbott, a San Diego geologist.

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The quake came from a sub-parallel fault offshore — part of a system of faults that are slowly moving San Diego and Southern California north.

“In San Diego, we look offshore and we see the Coronado Islands that's lifted up by one of these faults,” Abbott said. "We see Santa Catalina Island that's lifted up by one of these offshore faults."

No tsunami warning was issued for San Diego County, the USGS reported.

It was not immediately clear if any damage or injuries were recorded.

Some shaking was felt in the San Diego area. At magnitude 6.2, Abbott said it was unlikely that it was a foreshock.

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While the quake was hundreds of miles away, it still provided valuable information for engineers researching earthquake safety in San Diego.

"With these earthquake records, we use them and we can reproduce them on our larger shaking table," said Joel Conte, a structural engineering professor at UC San Diego. "And then we can test different types of models of structures to see how they behave during earthquakes."

Data from shake labs, such as the one at UCSD, will then help inform building codes to make them safer during earthquakes. But Conte says there’s a lag in real-world implementations.

“I would say 5-10 years delay, from the moment the research is done and when it is affecting the new version of the design code,” he said.

Generally speaking, Conte said homes and buildings are safer now than they were a generation ago, but it’s always a good idea to get a seismic inspection from a professional every few years.

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