Southern California could be overdue for a major earthquake

Southern California could experience the deadly effects of a major earthquake that's long overdue in the region, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Researchers looked at a 100-mile stretch of the San Andreas fault along the Grapevine north of LA that hadn't been studied much before.

They found earthquakes happen there about every 100 years.

It's been 160 years since the last major quake.

Researchers say the land on either side has been pushing against the other at a rate of more than 1 inch per year since 1857. All of that built up energy will be unleashed in a major quake.

RELATED: Active fault lines/zones in the US -- earthquakes

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Active fault lines/zones in the United States -- earthquakes

The Alaska-Aleutian Megathrust is located across 3,600 kilometers between Kamchatka, Russia to the Gulf of Alaska.

(Photo by Daniel A. Leifheit via Getty Images)

The Cascadia Megathrust stretches along the coasts of Washington and Oregon up into Canada

(Photo via Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG via Getty Images)

The Eastern Tennessee Seismic Zone runs from Alabama to Virginia and is responsible for four earthquakes in the past century. 

(Photo by Harrison Shull via Getty Images)

The Elsinore Fault Zone lies along the Santa Ana Mountains in Southern California

(Photo handout via NASA)

The Hayward Fault Zone runs along San Francisco Bay for 119 miles.

(Photo by Dave and Les Jacobs via Getty Images)

The Humboldt Fault (red) and the Midcontinent Rift System (green) are both located in Kansas and Nebraska. 

(Photo via Public Domain)

The Laguna Salada Fault runs from the US to Mexico and caused the 2010 Mexicali quake.

(Photo credit should read Daniel CONEJO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Moab Fault is located in Utah.

(By Andrew Wilson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

The New Madrid Fault Zone is located in Missouri.

(Photo via Public Domain)

The San Andreas Fault System runs along 1,300 kilometers in California. 

(REUTERS/NASA/JPL/Handout)

USA-EARTHQUAKE HISTORIC - Map of California visualizing earthquake activity over the past 25 years. Includes fault lines
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Land along the fault would move by several feet! All of that shaking would tear up Interstate 5.

The study's lead author tells the LA Times, "It would impact our ability to be a world-class city."

But the quakes don't happen like clockwork.

Science says the area is overdue for a rumbling, but it could be possible that it's decades away.

The geologists found several gaps between quakes -- three took longer than 160 years to hit again.

So it's still a guessing game.

But Dr. Scharer has some bad news.

"Longer gaps have happened in the past, but we know they always do culminate in a large earthquake. There's no getting out of this."

Even though the San Andreas fault is 30 miles from downtown LA, big quakes on the fault are expected to rattle the city.

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