Lake Tahoe tsunami, while unlikely, still possible, geologist says

Frequent earthquakes across Northern California over the last several weeks have spurred questions about the natural disasters ahead.

California Geological Survey geologist Steve Bohlen says the region has recently experienced quakes in rapid succession.  "We happen to be in a bit of an active period right now," Bohlen observed to CBS Sacramento.

At the end of April, a 3.8-magnitude earthquake hit the center of Lake Tahoe, followed by a 4.7-magnitude earthquake in Truckee, California that was felt from Sacramento all the way to Reno.

The lake, Bohlen says, "owes its existence to faults."

"That was the biggest one I felt since I was out here. There were some lights and stuff swinging. Something fell off the wall," said Ryan Callahan, who was at the Tourist Club in Truckee when the quake hit.

Seismologists tracking the activity say there's another, uncommon threat as well.

"There is a tsunami hazard around Lake Tahoe," said Bohlen, who explains that a magnitude-7 earthquake coming from the lake, though unlikely, could cause Tsunami-like waves.

"It would be significant emergency response effort in the Tahoe area if a magnitude-7 were to occur," he said.

How would you know if a Tsunami hit?

"If you feel an earthquake for [an] extended period of time, you really ought to think about moving to higher ground as quickly as possible," he said.

Tsunamis aren't something to sell your lakefront house over, Bohlen says, but he urges people to be prepared.

"Californians should have a safety kit with food, water…have a family plan of how to get together…when cellphones are down," he said.

An early warning system called Shake Alert could give precious extra seconds when an earthquake does hit.

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