Southern California Rocked by 7.1-Magnitude Earthquake, Strongest to Hit Area in 20 Years

By allison.quinn@thedailybeast.com (Allison Quinn) Tarpley.Hitt@thedailybeast.com (Tarpley Hitt)
David McNew/Reuters

Southern California residents rattled by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake on the Fourth of July holiday were hit by an even stronger earthquake on Friday night that sparked fires, triggered rock slides, and inundated emergency services with frantic calls for help.

And it may not be over. Experts say there is a 1 in 10 chance that another quake of the same size could hit the Mojave Desert community in the coming days.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 7.1-magnitude quake was centered near Ridgecrest, California, where some homes were damaged in Thursday’s earthquake—the strongest to hit the area in 20 years until the one that struck Friday. The city is about 112 miles from Bakersfield and 150 from Los Angeles.

“The cars started dancing. The dogs were freaking out. The cattle behind us started going nuts,” one Ridgecrest resident told CNN.

The shaking could be felt all the way to Sacramento and Las Vegas, and even in Mexico. A game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the New York Knicks in Vegas was postponed after the court was rocked by tremors, prompting players to freeze mid-game.

Kern County fire officials said there were “multiple injuries and multiple fires” in Ridgecrest, though no reports of deaths. First responders scrambled to handle an influx of emergency calls about gas leaks and fires, though authorities said no major building collapses had been reported.

“There are a lot of medical aid calls out there. We know of no fatalities at this time. However, there have been a lot of ambulance calls,” Kern County Fire Chief David Witt said at a late-night press conference. Witt said authorities were doing a “systematic search… for life and property” throughout Ridgecrest.

Residents fled their homes and took shelter in their cars or at a relief center until structural damage could be assessed.

“Many people are sleeping outside tonight,” Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said.

Marshella Taylor, a 39-year-old behavioral specialist, told The Daily Beast that she felt the quake while walking in downtown Bakersfield with her boyfriend. “One building had a bunch of chandeliers shaking,” Taylor said. “People came out and were like, ‘Did you feel that?’ We just kept holding hands. We didn’t even move.”

But Marshella said she was more concerned about her mother, Valerie Taylor, who lives in Ridgecrest, where the quake hit hardest. Marshella hasn’t heard from her mom since the tremors started.

“Yesterday, maybe an hour before the big one, I asked [my mom] if she had a survivor packet just in case something was going to happen,” Marshella told The Daily Beast. “She said, ‘Oh I’m fine, I’m good. We’ve been through these earthquakes before.’ Then, all of a sudden, the earthquake hit. I looked at my phone and it said it was a 7.1. I still haven’t gotten in contact with her.”

State Route 178 was closed for several hours after the quake cause rock slides.

Retired USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said Friday night’s earthquake happened on the same fault system as the one that jolted the area on Thursday. “The fault is growing,” Jones was quoted saying by the Los Angeles Times. “We ruptured a piece in the first earthquake, we ruptured a piece in the 5.4 [the aftershock], and we’ve ruptured more now.”

The U.S. Geological Survey noted that many people who felt the quake around Southern California did not get an alert from Los Angeles ShakeAlert app.

The USGS estimates the quake will cost a billion dollars, and Gov. Gavin Newsom requested President Trump issue an emergency declaration for federal aid.


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