The Earth Was Going to Open Up

A surprise quake wrecks a town and puzzles seismologists

Except for a brief moment of notoriety in 1978, when a plague of crickets carpeted its main street, nothing much ever happens in Coalinga, Calif, (pop. 7,271). Located in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, it is a sleepy little community whose most notable claim to fame is its unusual name, a garbled version of its early designation as a railroad's "Coaling Station A." Last week Coalinga (pronounced Clinga) was jolted out of its torpor, adding a puzzling footnote to California's seismic history.

At 4:42 on...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!