Dozens of quakes rattle California, including 4.8-magnitude temblor, experts say

A swarm of dozens of earthquakes reaching up to 4.8 magnitude rattled El Centro in Southern California overnight, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

The other quakes in the Monday, Feb. 12, swarm ranged in magnitude from 4.5 to less than 1.0, according to the USGS.

The nearly 12-mile deep 4.8-magnitude quake hit at 12:36 a.m., according to the USGS.

More than 800 people from as far away as Los Angeles and Parker, Arizona, reported feeling the tremor to the agency.

The USGS recorded 13 earthquakes in 25 minutes and dozens more throughout the night and morning, including at least 20 registering more than 3.0 magnitude.

A 4.5-magnitude quake hit at 12:42 a.m., the agency said.

“The Brawley Seismic Zone, near the US-Mexico border where the plate boundary transitions to a more extensional regime, is notoriously swarmy, and it woke up last night,” the USGS posted to X, formerly Twitter.

“Guess today is going to be an earthquake day,” read another post.

El Centro is about 210 miles southeast of Los Angeles near the U.S.-Mexico border.

What to know about earthquakes

Magnitude measures the energy released at the source of the earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey says. It replaces the old Richter scale.

Quakes between 2.5 and 5.4 magnitude are often felt but rarely cause much damage, according to Michigan Tech. Quakes below 2.5 magnitude are seldom felt by most people.

Earthquakes’ sudden, rapid shaking can cause fires, tsunamis, landslides or avalanches. They can happen anywhere, but they’re most common in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Puerto Rico and Washington, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

If an earthquake strikes, it’s best to protect yourself right away. Here are tips from experts:

  • If you’re in a car: Pull over and stop. Set your parking brake.

  • If you’re in bed: Turn face-down and cover your head with a pillow.

  • If you’re outdoors: Stay away from buildings. Don’t go inside.

  • If you’re inside: Stay and don’t run outdoors. Stay away from doorways.

The best way to protect yourself during an earthquake is to drop, cover and hold on, officials say.

“Wherever you are, drop down to your hands and knees and hold onto something sturdy,” officials say. “If you’re using a wheelchair or walker with a seat, make sure your wheels are locked and remain seated until the shaking stops.”

Be sure to cover your head and neck with your arms, and crawl under a sturdy table if possible. If no shelter is available, crawl to an interior wall away from windows.

Once under a table, officials say you should hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it.

“There can be serious hazards after an earthquake, such as damage to the building, leaking gas and water lines, or downed power lines,” officials say. “Expect aftershocks to follow the main shock of an earthquake. Be ready to Drop, Cover, and Hold On if you feel an aftershock.”

How are earthquakes triggered and how are their magnitudes measured? What to know