Earthquakes put Ridgecrest residents on edge: ‘Nobody in this town has slept for days’

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-06 23:44:11-04

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 that night.

At first, the temblor felt like other strong quakes that had hit the area.

“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 guests 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.”

‘I felt safer outside’

The major earthquake was centered 11 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, according to the US 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 US Geological Survey website.

More than 4,700 quakes have occurred since Thursday, said USGS geophysicist John Bellini.

“They are coming in every 30 seconds, every minute,” he said.

At least 3,000 quakes above a magnitude 1, according to CalTech seismologist Lucy Jones.

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.

Gov. Gavin Newsom 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 President Donald Trump approved Saturday.

“On behalf of all Californians, I offer my heartfelt support to those affected by tonight’s earthquake near Ridgecrest,” Newsom said Saturday.

U.S. weapons testing facility was damaged

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, a US weapons testing facility near Ridgecrest, said on its Facebook page that it sustained “infrastructure damage” as a result of the earthquakes Thursday and Friday.
“NAWS China Lake is not mission capable until further notice; however, security protocols remain in effect,” the Facebook post said.

The air station also authorized the evacuation of non-essential personnel as well as dependents, according to the post.

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.

There were no major reports of gas leaks or serious injuries in Kern County, Witt said. But calls came in for ambulance and medical assistance.

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.

In Los Angeles, about 150 miles south of Ridgecrest, residents felt the quakes, but no reports of serious damage were made, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. The LA 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 Friday 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

Jones, the CalTech seismologist, said Friday both large earthquakes are part of an ongoing sequence of a “very energetic system.”

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.