RESTON, Va. — A brief panic was sparked Wednesday afternoon after the US Geological Survey sent out an alert that a magnitude-6.8 earthquake had struck 10 miles west of Santa Barbara.
An earthquake of that size did strike the area.
But it happened in 1925.
“They clicked the wrong button,” said Justin Pressfield, a spokesman for the agency. “It was human error and software.”
The alert, according to Pressfield, was caused by a software edit of the quake that rocked Santa Barbara in 1925, killing 13.
While revising location information on the earthquake in their software, a California Institute of Technology seismologist set the date of the incident as 2025, according to Caltech spokeswoman Deborah Williams-Hedges. The system misinterpreted it as a current event, prompting an alert to be sent out.
Fourteen minutes later, the USGS sent out a tweet clearing up the confusion.