An e-mail circulating throughout Southern California is causing undue panic and worry among residents concerned about earthquakes.
The message says that CalTech sent its employees home one day this week and told them to stay home until further notice to prepare for “a big one” – an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 or greater centered in the L.A. area that will strike within four days.
The e-mail – which has no names or authorities referenced to verify any of the information – goes on to say that CalTech was deliberately not alerting the media “because of the pandemonium it will cause.”
KHTS received one of the e-mails, forwarded from a teacher at Canyon High School.
“That’s a rumor that is simply not true,” said John Werner, Director of Media Relations for CalTech. “We cannot predict earthquakes and we did not send anyone home.”
Werner said that the e-mail and tweets about the rumor have reached a fever pitch in the last 24 hours, prompting Snopes.com to put up a page declaring the story completely false.
In 2008, the Working Group On California Earthquake Probabilities predicted that the probability of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake over the next 30 years striking the greater Los Angeles area is 67 percent, most likely along the southern portion of the San Andreas Fault.
Since Southern California is earthquake country, it is always prudent to be prepared and have family emergency kits in homes and cars, as well as plans for family safety. (Click here for a reference list) But the science of predicting exactly when an earthquake will occur is still off in the future.