Berkeley’s 4th quake of day a 3.8 at 2307 Piedmont Ave

Update, 10.22.11: This just in from Lisa Carlson: Thursday night at Rita Moreno’s one-woman show about her extraordinary life as a performer at the Berkeley Rep, about 10 minutes into her opening, we had a strong earthquake, around 3.9, the second one of the day here — an aftershock, we were told. Loud and deep. I was sitting high up in the mezzanine, 5th row back, with three friends, George, Beth, and her husband David, and we all held hands when the quake shook us to the core. I thought this was it! We were just under those rafters… Really, if this was gonna be the end, so be it. Way to go, Lordie! Rita Moreno, exquisite and polished, sensitive and contained, and without hesitation, at age 80 – paused and asked the audience if we wanted to evacuate – or should she go on. We all applauded and yelled, “Go on!” that the show must go on, indeed. Then the stage manager’s voice came on over the loudspeaker and asked us one more time to say what we wanted. Only about three people in the full theater left at that moment. The rest of us clapped and cheered, “Go on!”  What an elegant beginning!

Update, 11:02pm: The Thorsen House — which is above the epicenter of Berkeley’s fourth quake today,is an architectural gem which is lovingly tended to by its group of fraternity student residents. However it is need of significant seismic retrofitting. See article on the house and its inhabitants.

Update, 10:50pm: USCG has downgraded the 8:16pm quake to a magnitude 3.8. Its exact location was 2307 Piedmont Avenue which is on the east side of the street at Bancroft Way, just south of International House. It was 2 miles east of Berkeley and had a depth of 6 miles. The building at 2301 Piedmont is the architecturally significant Thorsen House, designed in 1909 by Greene & Greene, currently owned by the Sigma Phi Society.


Another quake was felt in Berkeley tonight. The early estimate from USGS was that the 8:16 p.m. quake with an epicenter at the International House on the Cal campus had a magnitude of 3.9.

For the several thousand (including Berkeleyside) in the Greek Theater, the quake struck just a couple of minutes before Paul Simon took the stage. The crowd cheered the quake.

Quake hits Berkeley: 4.2 downgraded to 3.9, then 4.0 [10.20.11]

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  • I know it says 3.9 at USGS right now, but in W. Berkeley the one this evening felt stronger and lasted longer than the one this afternoon

  • Irisandjules

    that felt more like a 4+ – pretty big jolt here in West Berkeley. The cats are freaked out.

  • Anonymous

    This had better stop real fast….  This second shock was only supposed to be a 5% possibility as in larger.  I know it’s not over with yet.  

       USGS Report :

  • Bill

    Now revised down to 3.8 by USGS.

  • it felt quite a bit stronger than the one this afternoon.  my walls visibly shook and some plaster is now on my floor.  I honestly didn’t much notice the one earlier today.

  • anne

    Family in Santa Cruz say they felt this one! 

  • Lidianrfiol

    So Paul Simmon is at the Greek Theater? Did you report on this before? I read Berkeleyside every day and didn’t know. In terms of the quake, I was sitting on my backyard a
    Steps and saw a cat dive for it’s life! I was more worried for the cat than for myself wish goes to show that my house rattled a bit but stayed put compared to the shifty over grown weeds at my neighbors yard the cat was enjoying.

  • sam

    the concert was actually 2 blocks from the epicenter of the 2nd one

  • I am downtown, quite near the BART station, to give you an idea of my location.

    The first quake today felt much harder where I am than the second one.

    The second quake felt a little longer to me, but not quite as hard a shake.

    I imagine many people had the kind of thoughts I had. I began to wonder if this would be the big one long foretold. I wondered if my new (less than 3 years old) building’s earthquake resistant engineering would withstand the big one.  I imagined small patches of earth pulling apart, thinking that if the earth rumbles apart just a few inches, it could be enough to cause many buildings to fall apart.  I wondered how bad the big one would be, how much damage it would do. I imagined dishes falling out of cupboards, glass breaking, loud crumbling and dust.  I had enough time to imagine sirens beginning to respond and I wondered how our emergency services would know which calls to respond to first.  I realized I have lots of trust in our emergency services. And then I started to imagine how people would rally to help one another.

    Is this the big one?  I wondered. Then the shaking stopped. Relief.

  • laura

    USGS explained in another news source that the quake would feel stronger to us because of the depth, 6 miles, very abrupt and sharp.

  • the deer!

    Strong and complicated jolt and shaking here east of the tunnel tonight..

  • libraterian

    For all the money spent, why do gov’ment agencies (USGS and NWS in particular) speak to the public through lame avuncular types who claim to “know about as much as you do…”? 

    They may not be able to predict, but precise descriptions and context at a more sophisticated level is the least we could get for salaries/benefits we are paying. 

  • Anonymous

    This may be troll-feeding, but I feel compelled by my twin urges to be helpful and pedantic, especially since this is getting liked.

    If you speak to the public as scientist they see you as a smug egghead and tune out. If you speak to them in layman’s terms, there are apparently some people who will get their undergarments in a twist.

    If you want context and more sophisticated information about these quakes there’s plenty of it on USGS associated websites:

    NCSS Moment Tensor Solution
    First-Motion Focal Mechanism for Event

    And here are some nifty looking general tools I also don’t know the first thing about:

    Most scientists at the USGS went to school for four years or more to develop a thorough understanding of these concepts–many of which remained mysterious well into the twentieth century. It seems unreasonable to expect them to communicate the full scope of geology or seismology in one interview or press release. If you’re looking for someone with good salary and benefits whose job it is to teach you these things in detail, UC Berkeley is still taking applications for Fall 2012.

  • Alina

    I see what you did there, BS… Reporting about eq, but actually just using that as an excuse to brag about paul simon.   :)) so.. how was the concert?

  • I agree in general, but also think they should strive to strike a better medium between being too scientific and being too folksy. It is possible to speak authoritatively about subjects in a down-to-earth kind of way.

  • Afiessi

    I felt both earthquakes in the North Shattuck Ave. area. The earthquake at 8:16 seemed longer and bigger than the one in the afternoon. I didn’t feel any aftershocks though.

  • Heather W.

    I was in Walnut Creek for the first one yesterday and aside from nearly falling into a filing cabinet drawer I didn’t feel it — everyone else did. The 8:16 p.m. quake was a pretty significant jolt in my neighborhood (near The Albatross). Dogs completely freaked out last night, but apparently didn’t even notice the earlier one. 

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the Berkeleyside might consider an entertainment section that highlights event in progress or planned for the week or any particular day.  I also had no idea.  Jesus, this is all so reminiscent of the ’89 quake with the world series being played out across the bay and the weather so drop dead beautiful.  Infuriating is it not?!  Still these are very shallow quakes without much potential to do much property damage.  It’s the psychological stress dynamics that get us as we are a human species ( hopefully ) and not blocks of wood or zebras.  

  • Anonymous

    Carol and I felt both in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.

    The first one was a James Bond quake … I was shaken, not stirred.
    The second one I was shaken and stirred to post some colorful commentary.


  • Not a brag, at least not intentionally.

  • Iceland: have a look at our events calendar:

    It’s not everything that moves, but there’s a lot going on. It’s self-serve — the holders of events post themselves. So I don’t think anyone is adding concerts at the Greek Theater yet.

    One of the pleasures/frustrations for us at Berkeleyside is that there’s too much going on. We try to cover everything we think is newsworthy, and that’s a real challenge. We can’t possibly cover *everything*.

  • Bruce Perens

    It’s silly to say that the earthquake’s epicenter was that historic home in Berkeley. Although USGS gives you a map point, the horizontal precision for the epicenter gives you a circle 654 feet in diameter, centered on that address, and vertically it’s 5 miles underground. – Bruce Perens

  • Anonymous

    Would love to see an interview with some experts as to whether four small quakes (based on previous data) on a fault like the Hayward make a big one more or less likely or whether there’s no evidence to tell. Also whether epicenters in or near Berkeley mean that part of the fault is more likely than others to “give” in a large earthquake. A map of Berkeley showing bedrock, etc., including the more “dangerous” areas like fill would be useful. Have experts studied homes and apartments in Berkeley to see how safe they are by modern standards. For example, what about these apartment houses with garages underneath? Are they reinforced or very vulnerable. The last 24 hours showed me I’d like  to be more more informed than I am about such things. The larger newspapers have done nothing useful along these lines. Here’s an opportunity to shine, Berkeleyside editors!

  • I know what you’re saying, but that’s also the definition of the center of a circle (or, more correctly, sphere in this case).  So what’s the big deal?

  • Lidianrfiol

    I think Paul Simon is worthy of mention. Would you agree?

  • So sorry

    Yeah! Like Paul Simon was there and there was an earthquake and by the way we didn’t even publish an article about this event. But, he was still there during an earthquake.  

  • d bucher

    it’s not really meaningful to give the epicenter an exact street address. the rupture was six miles down! at that distance 2307 is no closer to the actual source of energy than the i-house, stadium, law school, etc. not only that but usgs states that their horizontal measurements have accuracy only to the 0.1 mile. yes, we all want to know how close it was to familiar places, but we should keep the geometric realities in mind.

  • libraterian

    (Eric…Congratulations on your twins! Helpful and Pedantic are names that will serve them well in Berkeley.)

    About USGS reporting (and gov. spokespeople generally)

    It’s universally accepted among talented scientists, mathematicians etc. that providing elegant and informative explanations is the only reliable evidence of a commanding grasp of the material.

    Having to move between slow web loading pages on NCSS Moment Tensor Solutions, Waveforms and First-Motion Focal Mechanism for Events whilst acquainting ones self with “nifty tools” is no substitute for a clear interpretation of the context and likely significance of regularly occurring events – like “minor or no damage” quakes in the Bay Area.

    Why can’t USGS provide:

    In the same paragraph as What, When, Where, How and Why? State the frequency of this and type of quake, regionally. Tell wether this quake is part of any series (felt or unfelt locally) which is under observation.

    Give an approximation of surface shaking as it relates to the depth/type which helps us understand our subjective experience – “…it was centered here but my Mom felt it stronger in Montclair…” or “…this one felt smaller but they say it was centered closer…”

    Provide a perspective on possible event status as an after shock or fore shock.

    ALL OF WHICH could easily be provided by a LIVE seismologist to news outlets within minute(s) of reviewing the (already) automatically assembled data. We spend billions on pricey technology but we can’t afford LIVE 24/7 monitoring for our single certain mega disaster? (yet we can put six tons of fire engine and seven $200K salary/benefit packages hurtling through traffic when somebody slips and falls at the Shattuck CVS)

    I’m sick of the media using “”minor or no damage”” quakes as an opportunity to bump their numbers with teasers “…up next, a developing story…and an interview with the night janitor at USGS”

    Real, meaningful information NOW, compiled by a trained live source, disseminated quickly and widely. The money we already spend should buy us that.

    And back to Eric,

    “If you speak to the public as scientist they see you as a smug egghead and tune out.”

    That’s a trollishly condescending perspective for the year 2011. What ’60 sci-fi movie have you been stuck in?

  • Bruce Love

    I saw USGS and academics answering almost all of your questions, live, shortly after the quakes.  Perhaps the news stations you watch just aren’t very good.

    When things like this happen, KRON often goes on the air for hours on end with live coverage.   Yes, there is a lot of stuff like live phone chats from the night manager at the 7-11 (“no, nothing fell of any shelves”).  But they cycle through USGS and academic types and questions like yours do get answered.

    In the case of an event like this, the answers are mostly negatives.   No, it’s not all that rare an event.  Sure, there’s a short-lived tiny increase in the expected chances of a “big one” but, no, not enough to make any rational difference for planning.   No, nobody will be suprised when the big one hits in the East Bay with or without these smaller events.    No, these don’t “decrease strain” and make a big one less likely.

    One interesting bit:  People here on Berkeleyside (and in a few other places) were surprised that the second of the larger ones was only 3.8.   They were saying they thought it felt stronger than the 4.0.

    USGS pointed to the “did you feel it data” which seems to indicate that, actually, the 4.0 felt stronger everywhere it was felt, to most people.  USGS also pointed out that geological differences between where you are for each event (e.g., what kind of ground you are on) and what you are doing and what is going on around you at the time can color subjective impressions of relative strength.

    The bottleneck on the kind of info you want isn’t the USGS – its the stations.   And, for these recent earthquakes, its not too surprising:

    A 3.8 and a 4.0 are pretty small and these don’t seem to have done any damage.  Even close together like this, they aren’t all that unusual for around here.   The kinds of facts you are asking for (e.g., “should we be worried that these are foreshocks”) aren’t news they’re background.   There isn’t much need to report background on events that aren’t all that interesting.   Moreover, this particular background on earthquakes is pretty often repeated around here, over the years:  actual news can take priority over repeating the same old earthquake background info, again.

  • libraterian

    “I feel compelled…[to comment] especially since this is getting liked.”

    While the self admitted pedantry is amusing, your unconscious noblesse oblige is hilarious…”since this is getting liked”! Thank God Eric was there to defend the peasants from their own opinions.

  • libraterian

    Thanks Bruce for making my point, again. All the things I mentioned should be on the USGS site, typed by a live hand minutes after a quake. We shouldn’t need to channel flip. Not with what we’re paying. And where USGS’s Bay Area quake iphone app?

  • Anonymous

    Location, depth, size of quakes always are of interest. That’s why I go online right after feeling an earthquake to find our more … and to connect with others to see if they felt it and to make sure they’re OK.

    The executive summary – take Gaia’s periodic updates to heart:

    Small quakes are reminders that we’re going to have a big quake one day
    Emergency response teams will be overwhelmed
    We need to be prepared to be on our own for 3-7 daysThere are lots of checklists available in print and online.  Here are simple steps we all can do … some within a few hours.  Most are free or low cost.Canned Food and mechanical can openersBottled Water (if you have on-demand hot water heaters you don’t have a 30 gallon reserve any more) operated radio, TV, flashlightsCreate a cache of hand operated tools.Consider installing a motion-sensor on your gas line so it shuts off automaticallyOrganize your block – Mike & Deb on our block provide amazing leadership. Many on our block have signed up to install gas shut off valves … and we’re saving money by ordering other emergency supplies in bulk.  After a deadly fire several years ago I set up a google group for our block association – that’s one way we keep in touch.Take Community Emergency Response Training Classes up a family emergency plan so your family knows where to meet if you can’t meet at home, and the name, number and email address you family friends out of the area.  If you have online access, social networking sites can be very useful to rapidly communicate that you’re OK.  I receive lots of posts from all over the country whenever people know there’s been a quake in Berkeley.  My post “We’re OK” gets distributed all over within moments. We’ve a photovoltaic system with battery backup and connect online via Comcast Cable and also Verizon iPhone & MiFi so we’ve a somewhat higher probability of having online access during an emergencyGet battery operated walky-talkies and learn how to use them.

    I hope the “how we’re preparing for the big one” conversation continues on Berkeleyside.  I’ve a feeling that reading how others have prepared will have more impact than downloading lists from a web site.


  • Anonymous

    RedRocksRover had a great web site link in another post

    That reminded me to talk about pets.

    PuddyMaximus (aka Puddy Max) took a stroll several years ago and never returned.  We had our name and phone number on his tag, but realized that wasn’t sufficient information for people to know he was lost.

    Poudini & Baby T now have tags with our name, address and phone numbers.  It’s much more important than having your pet’s name.


  • libraterian

    I’ve yet to see preparation materials mention the horrific problems we’re certain to face following a catastrophic quake. Some examples with well known historical precedents:

    Looting: A trash bag full of one block’s iphones, laptops, cameras, miscellaneous  jewelry and cash could set one up for very long time. Not to mention pin numbers forced out while stealing your cards. With the po po out of commission for three to four days or longer, it’s an opportunity that will not be missed.  

    Dead bodies: What do we do when the many, many corpses begin reeking and spreading contagion? CSI and YouTube have made us familiar with grisly sights previously known only to combat veterans, highway patrol officers and EMT’s. A catastrophic earthquake will bring those images home, literally.

    Sanitation: Less grim, as certain: Who has a chemical toilet? What will most do? 

    I post this not to chat back and forth, simply to make the point.

  • laura


    I have always asked the city’s trainers about the looting issue, they answer with utter nonsense,
    “we are hoping that people in a crisis will be their best selves”.
    In 1906 SF established Marshall Law within a few days of the disaster.