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Can the ground open up during a large earthquake?

Debunking popular earthquake myths
6.4 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Southern California
Posted at 8:58 AM, Oct 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-13 12:04:12-04

(KGTV) -- We’ve all seen popular natural disaster movies that show the ground opening up during a large earthquake.

Despite the way Hollywood depicts the destruction, the U.S. Geological Survey says the ground can’t open up during a large earthquake.

In the spirit of debunking this myth, we’ve decided to take a look at some other popular earthquake myths. Check them out below:


Can the ground open up during an earthquake?

According to the USGS, an earthquake occurs when two blocks of the earth’s crust slide past one another after being stuck together in one place for a long time, because of friction on the fault, while the rest of the crust rest of the crust away from the edges has been slowly moving.

“If a fault could open up, no earthquake would occur in the first place because there would be no friction locking the two blocks together,” the agency says.

"Shallow crevasses can form during earthquake-induced landslides, lateral spreads, or from other types of ground failures, but faults do not open up during an earthquake."

RELATED: Is there such a thing as earthquake weather?


Will California fall into the ocean?

In short, the USGS says no. California is firmly planted on the top of earth’s crust in a location where it spans two tectonic plates.

The San Andreas Fault System is the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.

According to the USGS, the two plates move horizontally and, the agency says, there is nowhere for California to go. Los Angeles and San Francisco will one day be adjacent to one another, however.

RELATED: Fault system in San Diego could cause big quake


Can animals predict earthquakes?

This one is a bit unclear. According to the USGS, in 373 B.C. animals were observed leaving their homes and heading for safety days before a destructive earthquake. Since then, numerous anecdotal evidence exists of animals acting odd anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake.

Consistent and reliable behavior and the mechanism explaining how it could work still eludes scientists. Currently, scientists around the world are pursuing the mystery, according to the USGS.