The powerful earthquake that rocked central Mexico on September 19 caused a phenomenon dubbed a “desert tsunami” almost 3,000 kilometers north of the epicenter in the U.S. state of Nevada.

The magnitude 7.7 earthquake that rocked central Mexico on September 19 caused an effect christened a ‘desert tsunami’ thousands of kilometers north of the epicenter in Nevada, USA. 

According to Mexico News Daily, “The 7.7 magnitude quake triggered a seiche  – a standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water – in a pool of water in a Death Valley National Park cave.”

In addition, the severe damage that previous earthquakes had caused in earlier events, the timing of its occurrence caused anxiety in those that remember the more deadly earthquakes that occurred on the exact same day in 1985, and again in 2017.

When Monday’s earthquake struck just after 1:00 pm local time, the exclamation of “no, not again! My God, not again!” was overheard during an annual mass being held for the victims of a school in Mexico City that had collapsed in the 2017 earthquake; this time, only two deaths were caused by the shocks, but the timing of the earthquake seemed far too coincidental for many of the residents affected by the event, considering that two other major earthquakes have struck Mexico on September 19:

In 1985 at least 5,000 people were killed in the magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck off the west coast of Mexico that caused $5 billion in damage, devastating Mexico City and its surrounding regions. The official death toll only takes into account the bodies of the individuals that were recovered; the bodies of tens of thousands more were never found.

Although the magnitude 7.1 earthquake centered close to the city of Axochiapan in 2017 was substantially weaker than its 1985 predecessor, the event still killed 370 and injured over 6,000 across the states of Puebla and Morelos and Mexico City.

The date of September 19 and major earthquakes are intertwined closely enough that Mexico holds a nationwide public earthquake drill on that date; in fact, Monday’s earthquake struck only an hour after the simulacro nacional (national drill) was held.

“It’s really strange, but a lot of people already don’t like that day,” remarked center coordinator Jorge Ornelas. He said that a lot of his acquaintances begin to worry about an earthquake striking around this time of year.

“If we keep thinking that every September 19 it’s going to shake, it’s going to continue happening every year, because what you think is always what happens,” Ornelas continued.

But what is it about earthquakes that seem to coincide with the date of September 19? Seismology researcher Xyoli Pérez-Campos, with the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Geophysical Institute, says that there’s no physical reason for the recurrence of earthquakes on a single day of the year, and that Monday’s earthquake resulted from the “interaction of the Cocos plate with the North America plate,” the same system that produced the 1985 earthquake.
It is also important to point out that earthquakes occur in Mexico on other days of the year—at least four that were more powerful than the September 1985 event occurred on other dates—it’s just that these particularly memorable events happened to occur on the same day.
“The plates break when it’s their time to break,” Pérez-Campos said. “What are they going to know about the calendar?”
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