South Bay reacts to 5.1 earthquake centered near SJ, share memories of 1984 Morgan Hill jolt

For some South Bay residents, Tuesday's earthquake was a reminder to stay grounded and make sure to always be prepared.

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
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After the magnitude 5.1 earthquake shook San Jose Tuesday, a South Bay man is reminded of the 1984 Morgan Hill quake that took his wife's family home.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- From swinging artwork inside a classroom, to swaying light fixtures and lamps across the Bay Area, residents shared videos with ABC7 News that captured the movements and reactions to the magnitude 5.1 earthquake that rocked the region Tuesday morning.

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"This was definitely a shake and not a roll," resident Robert Bimbi described.

Miles from the epicenter, Bimbi shared surveillance footage showing the family's decorative witch and wind chimes shaking with the quake.

Bimbi said the outdoor display is secured to withstand up to 50 mph winds. The items also survived Tuesday's strong earthquake and its several aftershocks.

"You had the 5.1 with an immediate 3.5 right after it," Bimbi shared. "And we felt it here. It was like an earthquake... and then an earthquake. It happens. This is California, we have both been here for so long, we're just used to it."

Bimbi and his wife grew up in Morgan Hill and were in middle school when the magnitude 6.2 Morgan Hill earthquake hit in April 1984.

"My wife's family actually lost her house in that earthquake," he told ABC7 News. "So, things like this always ground us back to making sure everything is strapped down, everything is safe, just in case."

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Bimbi continued, "We were kids back then and we were watching the glass blow out of buildings across Monterey Road. We had to wait for our parents to come pick us up. It was a big thing back then. Now, we're grandparents."

Tuesday's jolt occurred in the same spot as the Morgan Hill quake. It's the largest on the Calaveras Fault since 2007's shake, which was centered in Alum Rock.

"So, this is an active fault," Ross Stein with the U.S. Geological Survey said. "This is a fault that could rupture in a very large earthquake. And this is one we need to worry about."

That warning reaffirmed the need for the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofitting project, which is already underway. The large reservoir was drained in late 2020 to prepare for a decade of work.

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"If it were to get all the way full and we would have a seismic event with a non-retrofitted facility, the damage could be catastrophic," Chris Hakes, deputy operating officer for the Dam Safety & Capital Delivery Division for Valley Water said.

Hakes said simulations show a 30-foot wave would wipe out Morgan Hill, with water flowing from the dam, out to the San Francisco bay and Alviso, back to Monterey Bay.

Adding, "We've done an analysis that says that you would need a 6.9 earthquake on one of the faults or a 7.2 on the other fault - under the new configuration - to really do anything to the new retrofitted dam."

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Tuesday's tremor, prompting preparation.

"A smaller earthquake like this 5.1, it's still a concern. We do send our team out to go check, just to make sure everything is okay. And it is," Hakes told ABC7 News. "But it's a reminder that we could have a bigger, larger earthquake that could do some severe damage to the unretrofitted dam, kind of at any time, right?"

He continued, "It's a probability thing. They say we're overdue. You can't predict when it's gonna happen, so we want to be ready when it does."

Click here for the latest stories and videos about earthquakes here in the Bay Area and around the world, and click here for more information on disaster preparedness.

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