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The 1868 Hayward Earthquake: 139 years and counting...


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is releasing a new map showing the shaking produced by the 1868 Hayward earthquake, the 12th most deadly earthquake in U.S. history. A repeat of the 1868 earthquake on the Hayward Fault would produce strong shaking throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with shaking ranging from strong to very strong in the cities of Hayward, San Leandro, and Fremont.

According to Jack Boatwright, the USGS seismologist who prepared the new map, “the October 21, 1868 earthquake struck Hayward the hardest of any town in the Bay Area. The earthquake rupture clove the town in two, and it threw many frame houses from their foundations. Few places have paid such a steep price for the privilege of naming a fault and an earthquake.”

Time is not on our side! Sunday, October 21, 2007, marks the 139th anniversary of the 1868 Hayward earthquake. Scientific studies indicate that the average interval between the past five large earthquakes on the Hayward fault has been 140 years. It would not be surprising if another large Hayward Fault earthquake happened tomorrow.

“Damaging earthquakes have occurred on the Hayward fault almost like clockwork”, said Jim Lienkaemper, a USGS geologist who has studied the prehistory of earthquakes along the Hayward fault.

Logo: Hayward Earthquake Alliance“The Hayward fault is the single most dangerous fault in the entire Bay Area,” said Tom Brocher, a USGS seismologist and member of the 1868 Hayward Earthquake Alliance, “because it is ready to pop and because nearly 2 million people live directly on top of it.”

Proactive efforts to reduce the loss of life and property following a large Hayward fault earthquake have been tackled head on by East Bay cities such as Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, and Oakland. The City of Hayward replaced its old City Hall that lay directly over the Hayward fault, with a newly built earthquake resistant City Hall now located off of the fault zone. The City of Oakland recently passed a city ordinance, cosponsored by Council Members Jean Quan and Jane Brunner, that provides a property tax rebate to encourage homeowners to retrofit their residences. These efforts are necessary to reduce the number of homeless - now estimated at over 100,000 - which would result from a large Hayward Fault earthquake.

The new USGS 1868 ShakeMap can be viewed on the Earthquake Program Website.

Information about the 1868 Hayward earthquake is also available online on the Hayward Fault Earthquake Web page.

The 1868 Hayward Earthquake Alliance has been formed to coordinate and promote activities and events being planned to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the earthquake and to increase public awareness of the 1868 earthquake. For more information about the Alliance visit the Website at


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