Did you know that the Richter scale, the logarithmic scale used to measure earthquake magnitudes, doesn’t have a maximum number it goes up to, but magnitude 9 is the highest ever recorded? Such earthquakes are powerful and they come with some serious consequences. For example, Mexico was recently hit with one of the biggest earthquakes the country has seen since 2004, leaving devastating effects on the nation. The damage included collapsed buildings that amount to millions of dollars’ worth of repairment, leaving many homeless and at least 300 injured. On September 7th, 2017, a magnitude 8.1 was felt throughout Mexico, with its epicenter in the Pacific Ocean and a depth of 69.7 kilometers (43 miles). This makes it a relatively shallow earthquake and results in more intense shaking 1. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) even reported multiple aftershocks, including at least six tremors measuring above 5.0 in magnitude, and a one meter tsunami confirmed to be headed for Mexico. Earthquakes are inevitable, but are there ways to lessen the damage?
Contrary to popular films and media, the Earth does not rip open during an earthquake. Rather, there is intense shaking for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Instead of people being swallowed by the Earth, the biggest cause of death is falling buildings, which can be mitigated through better zoning and regulations. Although there is not much one can do to anticipate earthquakes, there are things you can do if you even find yourself in an earthquake. It is imperative that you get on your knees, cover your head and neck from debris and stay put until shaking ends. If you find yourself in a building that threatens to collapse, exit quickly and put as much distance between you and the building as possible. For more information on earthquake readiness, visit https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes.
Written by Ana Mendoza
Illustration by Emily Chen