A powerful and deadly earthquake struck the coastal California city of Santa Barbara back on June 29, 1925. More than a dozen people died and $8 million in damage was reported in the historic quake, which had a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter Scale.
Flash-forward almost 92 years and a quake with the same magnitude and with the same epicenter was reported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Wednesday.
Only this latest event was a false alarm — a database aftershock to be more precise — of the 1925 event.
The USGS sent out the alert about a 6.8-magnitude tremor near Santa Barbara on Wednesday afternoon — but turns out it was a false alarm.
The alert went out with a date in the future: June 29, 2025. That’s 100 years to the day after the Santa Barbara quake.
It went out on Wednesday because of a database error, the USGS said. The USGS quickly explained what had happened, citing a software issue encountered while revising data about the 1925 earthquake. The changes prompted the system to send an alert as if the quake had just struck.
The non-quake is reminiscent of a National Weather Service flood warning malfunction in 2014 that made it look like a biblical flood was going to hit the eastern U.S. That wasn’t the case, either.
Even if the USGS’ mistake was only up for about 30 minutes today, it looked like a large and real quake had shook the area — and strangely no one felt it. It also illustrated how connected news organizations and Twitter users in California are to the USGS, given the state’s vulnerability to earthquake hazards.
Anyone in Santa Barbara Cal. feel the 6.8 earthquake??
— Margaret Scott (@serialmom13m) June 22, 2017
The Southern California faux-quake came only a few hours after a (real) noontime earthquake up north in the Bay Area. That was a true quake, but a small one with a magnitude of just magnitude 3.0. But that one people actually felt, and the USGS correctly reported.