South L.A. was shaken out of its slumber early Wednesday morning when a 3.7-magnitude earthquake hit the View Park-Windsor Hills area, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The earthquake, originally recorded as a 3.8, hit 4 miles from the USC University Park Campus at 12:03 a.m. It had a depth of 7.2 miles, according to USGS.
The earthquake shook a mostly empty campus, with students largely at home due to the COVID-19 closure. But those, like Annie Nguyen, an RA in the USC Village, said she took cover in the common area of her floor.
“Normally earthquakes feel like they're swaying but it felt like a jolt,” said Nguyen, a sophomore journalism student. “Like if you've ever been in a thunderstorm before and it shook your whole house. That’s what it felt like. It felt like a jolt rather than a sway.”
Nguyen was on FaceTime with her two friends, who were also in L.A. when the earthquake happened. She didn’t realize what was happening until her friend told her to get under a table.
“I literally stared at her for two seconds before I realized that there was an earthquake,” Nguyen said. Nguyen also instructed one of her residents who’s still living in the building to take cover because he was experiencing an earthquake for the first time.
“Anytime there's an earthquake, there could be more earthquakes coming,” said John Vidale, an expert in earthquakes, earth structure and seismic hazard. He told Intersections South L.A. that it’s possible that L.A. will get hit by another earthquake.
“We have a rule of thumb that whenever there's an earthquake, there's a 1 in 20 chance of a bigger earthquake in the next week,” Vidale said.
The earthquake's sudden jolts hit south LA residents already struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has many people living alone and stuck in their homes.
Nguyen said she’s not surprised if it does happen. “It’s just like a really apocalyptic feeling. And like, a sprinkle on top of everything.”
At a time when people are preoccupied with self-quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vidale said it would be “disruptive” if there’s going to be a big earthquake.
“An element of chaos for an earthquake would, first of all, interfere with the medical care people might need, and the hospitals are all set up for germs from the pandemic,” Vidale said, “It makes life more complicated. The cleaning up after the earthquake and getting things back running would be slower and more expensive than usual.”
However, Vidale also pointed out that there’s also a bright side to it. “If the earthquake damages roads, on the other hand, it’s a good time to be fixing roads because there’s not much traffic. In some ways, it might be helpful to have this shutdown, at the time we’re cleaning up after an earthquake.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted in response to the quake that the Los Angeles Fire Department will “conduct its routine survey of the city to assess for any damages.”
Vidale said that an earthquake is a long term project to prepare for. Although it’s possible that another earthquake could occur during this time, there is no need for people to prepare any differently, but they should be taking basic precautions.
“Have your earthquake kit, be aware of what the aftermath of an earthquake might be like and fix things that need fixing before they get broken in an earthquake,” Vidale said.
Nguyen also agrees that people are more prepared right now. “Because everyone’s in catastrophe mode, we’d be more prepared in terms of emergency supplies, probably, and emergency procedures.”