California Shaken By Strongest Earthquake In 20 Years, Generates Over 100 Aftershocks

California Shaken By Strongest Earthquake In 20 Years, Generates Over 100 Aftershocks

Southern California was rocked by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Thursday, centered in the Searles Valley around 125 miles away from Los Angeles.

Southern California was rocked yesterday by the biggest earthquake seen in 20 years, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale and resulting in tremors all the way from Las Vegas to Orange County. The earthquake was centered in the deserted Searles Valley, about 125 miles Northeast of Los Angeles, and resulted in at least 159 aftershocks of magnitude 2.5 or greater, according to CNN. The nearby town of Ridgecrest, which suffered the most damage, has declared a state of emergency on the Independence day holiday due to the quake. 



Footage from the town shows firefighters combating blazes at multiple homes. At the epicenter of the earthquake in Kern County, the Fire Department responded to more than 20 incidents relating to the earthquake and aftershocks, including fires and medical emergencies, CNN reports. "As I understand, we have five fires," Mayor Peggy Breedon of Ridgecrest said in an interview with the news outlet. "We have broken gas lines." The town also suffered several power outages due to the quake. "We are used to earthquakes but we're not used to this significance," Breedon told MSNBC. She also urged the community to look out for each other as aftershocks continued. "Multiple buildings have glass that's broken out. Shelves at grocery stores have fallen down," Kern County Fire Chief David Witt told NPR. A regional hospital in Ridgecrest was also evacuated, and 15 patients from the emergency room were taken to another hospital. 


While emergency responders continued to survey the areas around Ridgecrest for damage, authorities said there were no immediate reports of deaths, serious injuries or major infrastructure damage, the L.A. Times reports. The quake was also felt in Los Angeles, where the shaking reportedly felt longer - with a rolling quality. “It wouldn’t stop. It just kept feeling like you were in a boat,” said Cynthia Alvarez, who was at work in an El Segundo hotel at the time. “I almost had a heart attack,” said Los Angeles resident Nathan Jones, who was making tea in his apartment in Santa Monica when the earthquake struck. “I’m 73 years old,” he said. “I felt real dizzy, and I kept rocking like this. And I thought, ‘Is this how I’m going to go out?’ I thought I was dying.” The New York Times reports that people at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina del Rey felt the quake, which caused the elevators to shut down, and people on upper floors of the hotel felt a "powerful jolt". “I felt like the hotel was going to come crashing down,” said Miguel Forbes, a guest at the hotel.



Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones told the L.A Times that aftershocks will continue to rumble through Kern County, and there is a small chance that the quake was a “foreshock” of an even greater temblor to come. Jones also told reporters that the fault that ruptured on Thursday was separate from the San Andreas fault, the largest and most threatening of faults in California. She said that Thursday’s earthquake did not appear to have consequences for the timing of the Big One — the much-feared but inevitable earthquake on the San Andreas. “It doesn’t increase the risk,” Jones told reporters at a news briefing. “It also doesn’t decrease it.” Jones also said that there is a 1 in 20 chance that a bigger earthquake will hit within the next few days. "It's certain that this area is going to be shaking a lot today and some of those aftershocks will probably exceed magnitude 5." The quake was preceded by a foreshock of a 4.2 magnitude. 



Experts say that a lot of the damage was mitigated due to the sparse population of Searles Valley. A similar quake in the Los Angeles basin would have resulted in severe property damage as well as several deaths. In 1994, at least 57 people died when a 6.7 earthquake hit the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, causing $25 billion in damage. The Searles Valley quake was the largest to hit Southern California since 1999 when a 7.1 earthquake struck in a remote part of the Mojave desert.



The largest aftershock to hit Ridgecrest so far has measured 4.6 on the Richter scale. While the town, as well as other nearby communities, reported damaged roadways and buildings, there have been no reports of major injuries so far. Diane Ruggiero, general manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites Ridgecrest in Ridgecrest, said the hotel sustained significant damage. "The chandeliers are still swinging," she said five minutes after the quake hit at 10:33 a.m. PT. "The floor rippled." According to local news, California Highway Patrol inspected roadways and bridges in the nearby area soon after the quake struck. The highways remain undamaged, with two exceptions. A large crack was found in the roadway on Highway 178 and was filled within an hour. Some debris and large boulders spilled onto Highway 395, but they were also removed within an hour.

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