But scientists are getting better at mapping the fault lines beneath Los Angeles that have the potential to inflict as much—if not more—devastation.
A hypothetical 7.8-magnitude quake epicentered on the San Andreas Fault near the Salton Sea would be felt throughout LA, and damage would be widespread. But the strongest shaking would be felt 30 to 80 miles away from LA city limits.
In comparison, a 7.5 earthquake epicentered on the Puente Hills Thrust near Downtown could kill 3,000 to 18,000 people—many more than the estimated 1,800 that would be killed by the San Andreas scenario. Ground shaking would be so violent, it would launch objects into the air.