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Home > Blog > 2020 > Earthquake risk in Sacramento

Earthquake risk in Sacramento

September 29, 2020

Sacramento earthquake risk is far less than the threat facing San Francisco Bay Area cities. While Sacramento doesn’t sit on top of a known active fault, smaller earthquakes are far more common.

The state capital city has experienced the effects of recent earthquakes. Sacramentans felt the May 15, 2020, M6.5 Monte Cristo Range earthquake in Western Nevada and the March 31, 2020, M6.5 in Central Idaho.

USGS simulations of a large earthquake, with a strong magnitude 6.8 earthquake or more show Sacramento would likely experience significant shaking. If a major earthquake were to hit near the city, the shaking could loosen sandy soil deposits, allowing water to penetrate and saturate the earth. This hazard is known as liquefaction. The liquified soil loses its strength, cracking and moving underneath structures like levees and buildings.

In downtown Sacramento and other areas near the American River and the Sacramento River, most of the land has sedimentary river deposits and a high-water table.

Sacramento Earthquake Prediction

USGS simulations of a strong magnitude 6.8 earthquake or more show Sacramento would likely experience significant shaking. Sacramento’s earthquake risk is a 77% likelihood of one or more magnitude 7.0+ earthquakes hitting Northern CA in the next 30 years.

Effects & Damage of a Major Earthquake in Sacramento

Sacramento earthquake risk affects the thousands of older and wooden housing stock that could be vulnerable to severe shaking. Many people in the Sacramento region live in river basins that are subject to liquefaction, where water-saturated earth is shaken strongly during earthquakes. These soil deposits lose their load-bearing strength and behave like a liquid. Buildings and other structures can be damaged when their foundations sink into the soup-like sands.

Sacramento Earthquake Risk Map

Image - Sacramento earthquake risk

Sacramento and the surrounding communities have felt the shaking from the San Francisco Bay Area Loma Prieta and Southern California Ridgecrest earthquakes. There is a 77% likelihood of one or more >M7.0 earthquakes striking Northern California in the next 30 years. Find out your Sacramento earthquake risk and your home’s nearby geological hazards by visiting faults near you.

Notable Faults near Sacramento

Sacramento earthquake risk is caused by three fault zones: Cleveland Hills, Sierra Nevada Fault and San Joaquin. The Oroville earthquake on August 1, 1975 added new information to geologic studies of the Sacramento Valley. That quake event near Oroville Dam woke the geologic and engineering communities to the potential of active faulting in the Northern Sacramento Valley and in the adjacent Sierra foothills.

The Oroville quake on the Cleveland hills faults had several impacts. It stalled a big dam project near Auburn northeast of Sacramento within the Bear Mountain fault zone running under the site. The quake’s danger pressed state legislators to close the state Capitol so the historic structure could be earthquake retrofitted. California dams continue to be studied for earthquake risk.

Cleveland Hills Fault

The Cleveland Hills fault coincides with surface ruptures that occurred during the Oroville earthquake. During that seismic event, the ground surface fracture showed at least 2 inches of horizontal separation across the surface ruptures and as much as 7.4 inches of vertical separation. Aftershocks of the Oroville earthquake defined a new zone of seismic activity.

Sierra Nevada Fault

The Sierra Nevada fault is an active seismic fault along California’s eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It forms the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, extending about 370 miles just north of the Garlock fault to the Cascade Range.

The San Joaquin Fault Zone

The San Joaquin fault zone was once an ocean and is now a depression between California Coastal Ranges and the eastern Sierra Nevadas. The mountains and valleys were created by many cuts and folds by faults.

Although the middle of the San Joaquin Valley isn’t tectonically active, the edges can be.

  • In 1857, the M7.9 Fort Tejon earthquake struck the city of Parkfield. It caused significant damage, killed two people in Kern County north of the Grapevine. USGS reported seiching, fissuring, sandblows and hydrologic changes from Sacramento to the Colorado River delta.
  • The 1952, Kern County quake killed 12 and caused tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage. The quake was felt over a large area, including in Nevada, San Francisco and San Diego, even causing damage in these far away locations.
  • Coalinga, in Fresno County, was also near the epicenter of a magnitude 6.2 earthquake in 1983, and caused roughly $10 million in damage.

How to Mitigate Earthquake Damage

The shaking from a major Sacramento earthquake can move everything inside your home.

Prepare for the next earthquake by considering the safety of your home. Make or purchase your earthquake safety kit and gather essential supplies. Keep your family safe and prevent the injury of your loved ones by getting ready today. 

A recent local government study found that for every $1 spent on mitigation, homeowners can save $3 in earthquake losses. Retrofitting your home also protects your personal property investments and keeps you in your home.

Know what to do During an Earthquake

When a major Sacramento earthquake strikes, you may get a warning of 10 or 15 seconds.

Be prepared with emergency plans and supplies. Sign up for the MyShake app today.

Remember to Drop, Cover, and Hold On

  • Drop to the ground. 
  • Cover. Get under your dining room table or desk. If there isn’t a table or desk nearby, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Hold On. Stay inside and in place until shaking stops. Most injuries occur when people attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

Image - Remember to Drop, Cover, and Hold On during an earthquake

It’s not enough to be prepared physically when the ground shakes. It’s also important to be financially prepared for the home damage that occurs during the shaking. Find an affordable earthquake insurance policy to protect your property when the big one hits.

Understand Geologic & Structural Risks to your House

Whether it is the Cleveland Hills fault, Sierra Nevada fault or San Joaquin fault zone, activity could cause damage to the surrounding communities.

Understand the potential geologic threats to your home in case of a major earthquake by learning your earthquake risk.

The violent shaking from earthquakes can rupture the earth, trigger landslides and turn the surface of the earth to liquid. Your home may be vulnerable to serious structural damage if it was built before 1980.

is earthquake insurance worth it in sacramento?

Are you ready for an earthquake to strike Sacramento? Studies show Sacramento earthquake risk includes dangers of liquefaction due to the young sedimentary soils near the American and Sacramento rivers.

The probability of the next big earthquake in California is 99%. Even if you live miles from an active fault, the damaging effects of earthquakes can travel miles from the epicenter. Consider the following facts when, not if, a major earthquake hits:

Could you:

  • Pay your mortgage for a house that needs to be rebuilt?
  • Cover the costs for temporary accommodations?
  • Repair or replace your personal belongings?

Earthquake insurance can help reduce the stress and financial burden of experiencing a devastating earthquake. CEA flexible and affordable earthquake insurance policies not only cover earthquake damage and help repair damages. Loss of use coverage covers the costs of temporary shelter and additional living expenses so that families can get back on their feet quicker.

how much is earthquake insurance in sacramento?

The cost of Sacramento earthquake insurance depends on the amount of coverage you choose, the location of your home, the home’s structure, and the amount of deductible you select. Learn about premium discounts. Whether you own or rent your home, you can find the right earthquake insurance coverage to fit your budget.

Without earthquake insurance, you will have to pay from savings to repair and replace earthquake damage to your home and valuables, and finance needed temporary housing.

Purchase Affordable Coverage

Don’t be caught unprotected when a major Sacramento earthquake strikes without warning. Discover CEA affordable and flexible home earthquake insurance policies that:

  • Offer choices of coverage and deductibles.
  • Protect the investment in your home and valuables.
  • Provide homeowner premium discounts if you retrofit your home or mobile home.
  • Give you peace of mind when, not if, a big Sacramento earthquake hits.

Typical home insurance policies and tenant insurance doesn’t include earthquake coverage. In California, the homeowner or renter needs a separate earthquake policy to cover damages from an earthquake. Choose your policy today with a free estimate.



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