Nearly 200 people in shelters after back-to-back California quakes
Ridgecrest, Calif. – Crews in Southern California assessed damage to cracked and burned buildings, broken roads, leaking water and gas lines and other infrastructure Saturday after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years jolted an area from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Mexico.
No fatalities or major injuries were reported after Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake. But warnings by seismologists that large aftershocks were expected to continue for days – if not weeks – prompted further precautions.
Mark S. Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said Saturday that Ridgecrest and Trona suffered structure fires, gas leaks, power outages, road damage and rock slides.
He says the damage was not as extensive as expected despite back-to-back quakes on Thursday and Friday.
He says nearly 200 people were in shelters.
Ghilarducci says cleanup work is underway in San Bernardino and Kern counties, and Caltrans has worked to patch and fix roads, as well as clear rock slides.
The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, said Maj. Gen. David Baldwin. The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.
The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the Mojave Desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier.
April Hamlin, a Ridgecrest native, said she was “already on edge” when the second quake hit. At first she and her three kids thought it was another aftershock.
“But it just kept on intensifying,” she said. “The TV went over, hanging by the cord. We heard it break. We heard glass breakage in the other rooms, but all we could do was stay where we were until it stopped.”
In San Bernardino County, which saw significant damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency amid “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.”
State highway officials shut a 30-mile section of State Route 178 between Ridgecrest and the town of Trona southwest of Death Valley, due to a rockslide and severe cracking.
In Ridgecrest, local fire and police officials said they were initially swamped by calls for medical and ambulance service. But police Chief Jed McLaughlin said there was “nothing but minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, by the grace of God.”
Two building fires – one involving a mobile home – were quickly doused, he said. Natural gas leaks were reported, but the lines were shut off.
Trona, with about 2,000 residents, was reported to have at least one collapsed building. Roads were buckled or blocked, and police put out a call for bottled water for residents.
Antoun Abdullatif, 59, owns liquor stores and other businesses in Ridgecrest and Trona.
“I would say 70% of my inventory is on the floor, broken,” he said Saturday morning in Ridgecrest. “Every time you sweep and you put stuff in the dust bin, you’re putting $200 in the trash.”
But he has stopped cleaning up, believing another earthquake is on the way.
“We are waiting but I hope it doesn’t come,” he said.
In Los Angeles, 50 miles away, the second quake rattled Dodger Stadium in the fourth inning of the team’s game against the San Diego Padres. But the game went on, and the Padres won, 3-2.
“Not many people can say they threw a strike during an earthquake,” Eric Lauer, who was on the mound at the time, said later. “My ball, my pitch, started an earthquake.”
“Everyone was jumping over us to leave,” said Daniel Earle, 52, of Playa del Rey, who was sitting with his wife in the stadium’s reserve level. “My wife was holding us, like squeezing. I’m surprised my arm is still here.”
Andrew Lippman, who lives in suburban South Pasadena, was sitting outside and reading a newspaper when the second quake happened. He estimated the quake lasted 45 seconds.
“I could see power lines swaying,” he said.
Disneyland in Orange County and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita closed their rides. At the New York-New York hotel in Las Vegas, the Big Apple Coaster swayed.
There is about a 1-in-10 chance that another 7.0 quake could hit within the next week, according to Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey. The chance of a 5.0-magnitude quake “is approaching certainty,” she added.
She said the new quake probably ruptured along about 25 miles of fault line and was part of a continuing sequence. The seismic activity is unlikely to affect fault lines outside of the area, Jones said, noting that the gigantic San Andreas Fault is far away.