Fake California Earthquake Alert Sends Twitter Into a Tizzy

Staffer at Caltech accidentally sends out alert for a magnitude 6.8 quake off the Santa Barbara coast, which actually happened in 1925

Last Updated: June 22, 2017 @ 3:56 AM

An earthquake alert sent out by a staffer at Caltech had Southern Californians quaking in fear Wednesday night — but not because the ground was actually moving.

The report of a 6.8 magnitude quake in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, sent around 4:51 p.m. PT, shook Twitter into a panic, but it was actually referring to a quake that happened in the same area 92 years ago.

The false alarm occurred when the staffer tried to correct the exact location of the Prohibition-era Santa Barbara earthquake in 1925, according to the Los Angeles Times. The staffer accidentally tweeted a news alert with the historical update before quickly retracting it.

Some observant social media users noticed that the alert was about a disaster happening eight years in the future, as the quake tweet was dated June 29, 2025 at 7:42 a.m.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) said the revision of the 1925 earthquake was “misinterpreted by software as a current event. We are working to resolve the issue.”

A real 6.8 magnitude earthquake would be felt by millions and would likely cause “considerable damage” and “partial collapse” in average buildings, as well as the fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, and walls, according to the USGS.

The actual 6.8 earthquake that hit Santa Barbara on June 29, 1925, killed 13 people and destroyed the historic center of the city, with damage estimated at $8 million (about $111 million in 2017).

It could have been a far greater disaster, however, if three heroes hadn’t shut off the town gas and electricity preventing a possible catastrophic fire.

See more tweets below.