RIDGECREST, Calif. — Ridgecrest is a town in a California desert where the 28,000 residents are used to earthquakes.
As California Institute of Technology seismologist Egill Hauksson pointed out Saturday, the city was once known as the earthquake capital of the world. That’s because so many small earthquakes happen there.
Friday’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake was very different.
Jason Corona co-owns a Mexican restaurant that was packed Friday night. At first the temblor felt like other strong quakes that hit in the past. “It started off low, and as soon as that bouncing started then I think it set a whole new different level of panic for everybody,” he told CNN. “It was different from the other ones that we’ve had before.” Bottles fell behind the bar, patrons dropped to the floor under tables and spilled food made a slippery getaway for frightened quests who sprinted outside.
People in Ridgecrest are on edge, he said. “We’ve never had anything like this,” he said. “Nobody in this town has slept for days.”
The major earthquake was centered 11 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It released 11 times the amount of energy of Thursday’s quake, also centered near Ridgecrest, CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
The quake swayed buildings and cracked streets and foundations in Southern California on Friday night, sending terrified residents into the streets. Ridgecrest resident Jaye Krona said the earthquake felt like her “rocking chair gone crazy.”
“We had to sit down or crawl on hands and knees to get around because you couldn’t stand up and be in an upright position without falling over,” Krona said.
Krona and her friend Kelly-Jo Lewis spent the night outside on Lewis’ driveway. “With everything shaking, things are falling. It’s just not safe,” Lewis said. “I felt safer outside, and I felt me and her were safer together being in pairs.”
So many aftershocks
The region has seen an average of one aftershock per minute since Friday’s quake in the southern part of the state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website. More than 4,700 quakes have occurred of since Thursday, said USGS geophysicist John Bellini. “They are coming in every thirty seconds, every minute,” he said.
After Friday’s 7.1 quake, three of magnitude 5 or greater struck within the first hour, he said. Gas leaks caused structure fires throughout Ridgecrest, residents reported water main breaks, and power and communications were out in some areas, according to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governors’ Office of Emergency Management. Several injuries were reported, said Kern County spokeswoman Megan Person.
Kern County Fire Chief David Witt told reporters he knew of no fatalities. About 130 residents from Bakersfield and Trona were staying in a temporary shelter, Person said. “On behalf of all Californians, I offer my heartfelt support to those affected by tonight’s earthquake near Ridgecrest,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday.
The governor declared a state of emergency in Kern County on Thursday and in San Bernardino late Friday. Newsom also requested a presidential emergency declaration for assistance, which the President approved Saturday.
No power or water in San Bernardino town
The San Bernardino County Fire Department said it received multiple reports of damage as well from northwest communities. “Homes shifted, foundation cracks, retaining walls down,” the department said. “One injury (minor) with firefighters treating patient.”
Trona, a town of 2,000 people, does not have power or water, San Bernardino County Fire spokesman Jeremy Kern told CNN. Workers had been restoring power from the initial earthquake when Friday’s disrupted power again.
Both earthquakes disrupted the main water system. Officials are bringing in water to residents and fire teams. No injuries have been reported in the town. There were two reports of burglary in Ridgecrest, police chief Jed McLaughlin said.
It lasted longer than Thursday’s earthquake
Bakersfield resident Giovanna Gomez was at home with her family when their house swayed and the water in her pool overflowed. They ran outside. “It was about a minute long,” she said. “Far larger than the one that (happened Thursday). It was a smooth roll going back and forth.”
Bakersfield is in Kern County, about 110 miles from Ridgecrest.
Donald Castle, who lives in Porterville, west of Ridgecrest, said his house shook for nearly 25 seconds. “It was more of a shake than what we had on the Fourth. It lasted longer and was more rolling,” he said.
Calls for medical help
No reports of major gas leaks or serious injuries have been reported in Kern County, Witt said. But calls came in for ambulance and medical assistance.
In Los Angeles, about 150 miles south of Ridgecrest, residents felt the earth shake, but no reports of serious damage were made, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported no major damage, deaths or serious injuries, but said some wires were down and power was out in some locations.
Shaking felt in Mexico and Las Vegas
The shaking was felt as far away as Mexico and Las Vegas, according to the USGS.
The NBA Summer League game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the New York Knicks in Las Vegas was postponed Friday following reports of the quake. Scoreboards and speakers near the ceiling of the arena shook when the earthquake hit.
Quakes are part of an ongoing system
CalTech seismologist Lucy Jones said Friday both large earthquakes are part of an ongoing sequence of a “very energetic system.”
The latest magnitude 7.1 earthquake was the mainshock, while Thursday’s magnitude 6.4 quake was a foreshock, according to Jones.
On Saturday morning, the USGS said the chance of another magnitude 7 or higher earthquake is 3%. On the other hand, the chance of a magnitude 3 or higher earthquake hitting the area is more than 99%. “It is most likely that as few as 240 or as many as 410 such earthquakes may occur in the case that the sequence is reinvigorated by a larger aftershock,” the USGS said on its website.
U.S. weapons testing facility was damaged
A U.S. weapons testing facility in Ridgecrest, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, said on its Facebook page that it sustained “infrastructure damage” as a result of Thursday’s and Friday’s earthquakes. “NAWS China Lake is not mission capable until further notice; however, security protocols remain in effect,” a Facebook post said.
According to the NAWS China Lake website, the facility is the Navy’s largest single landholding, covering more than 1.1 million acres — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island — in Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo counties.