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Local News

Small Earthquake Mistakenly Reported Off Carpinteria Coast

A false earthquake alarm went out Monday morning for a small tremor that supposedly — but never actually — struck off the Carpinteria coastline.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management sent out a public alert shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday to notify residents of the 3.1-magnitude earthquake that hit approximately seven miles off the Carpinteria coastline, with no expected tsunami or shaking effects.

A short time later, at 11:22 a.m., the office issued a correction email and text message alert stating an earthquake did not occur.

David Flamm, emergency manager of the department office within the County Executive Office, told Noozhawk the correction was sent out through the Nixle Notification System after staff went to the U.S. Geological Survey website and failed to find an accompanying reading to verify the small seismic event.

Flamm said Monday marked the first time the emergency planning office has sent out a faulty quake alert, a glitch between the county and the USGS notification system. 

The local office receives earthquake notifications from the USGS and seismic-monitoring networks contributing to the Advance National Seismic System. Most of that same information is automatically posted to the USGS website or Earthquake Notification System if it meets quality standards, according to Paul Laustsen, a USGS spokesman.

Anomalies do exist within the system, Laustsen said, and sometimes something as insignificant in size as a cow walking by a seismometer could produce a false reading.

He could not say what caused Monday’s false alert, but said USGS is always working to improve its notification systems.

USGS’s website notes that alert data is preliminary, and that users should check the agency’s website for the most recent updates.

Locally, Flamm said the county office will take extra care to double check alert notifications in the future.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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