Every once in a while there are earthquakes that greatly affect the people in the surrounding areas. To be more specific, Haiti, Chile, Japan, and Northridge, California come to mind. These places have experienced some of the largest earthquakes in most recent years and millions of people were affected by these quakes alone. Many lost their homes, valued possessions, and even close friends and family members. However, one of the most anticipated quakes in California is drawing close. The people of California are awaiting the massive rupture that is supposed to occur along the San Andreas Fault within the next few decades. In order to understand and be ready for the inevitable "Big One," it is important that one learns where this fault line is, how geologists predict earthquakes, how to prepare for it and how to stay safe during the quake and it's aftershocks. Californians must be alert, informed and prepared as much as possible for the inevitable day of the "Big One". .
The San Andreas Fault runs along most of California's coastline "from northern California southward to Cajon Pass near San Bernardino" (Schulz 1, a distance of over 800 miles. An earthquake can occur anywhere along this fault-line. The fault itself is created by two earth plates on either side of it; the Pacific Plate (on the west) and the North American Plate (on the east). For the most part, the two plates are sliding past one another. The Pacific Plate moves northward at about two inches per year relative to the North American Plate (Stoffer 1). This movement is known as a right-lateral strike-slip. However, at some areas of the fault there appears to be a staircase pattern. The staircase pattern is composed of not only strike-slip, but also compressional forces which help shape the mountains around us (Stoffer 1). The basic knowledge of the location and movement along this fault-line can help guide scientists to make sound predictions.