3,000+ Quakes, More Than $100M In Damage: The Aftermath Of 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake Continues

An employee works at the cash register at Ridgecrest Market which remained open since a 7.1 earthquake struck the community. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Sharon McNary and Elina Shatkin

They thought the 6.4 magnitude earthquake on the morning of July 4th was big.

Then a 7.1 magnitude quake struck Friday night, many times more powerful. The series of significant quakes, plus hundreds and hundreds of aftershocks, many of notable size themselves, has Mojave Desert towns nearest the epicenter on edge.

And they have good reason: Friday night's temblor was the biggest in Southern California in 20 years.

It all started about 10:30 a.m. on Independence Day when a strong quake hit near the town of Ridgecrest, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. That quake was felt throughout the region, jarring many out celebrating the holiday at neighborhood parades.


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Well over a thousand aftershocks frayed nerves in the day that followed. Then, an even bigger quake hit followed by hundreds more aftershocks.

"It's hard for the world to know what we've been through, because by the grace of God, we've had no casualties and we've only had minor injuries," said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin late on Saturday morning.

He called that "amazing."

Friday's quake was centered 11 miles from his town, which was already in recovery mode from the quake the day before.

McLaughlin noted more good news at a news conference.

"Our structures have remained upright," he said. "Some have sustained some major damage but they're still standing and that's amazing."

By Saturday evening, officials said there's been more than 3,000 earthquakes detected in the area since Thursday and damage appeared to be more than $100 million.

NEWSOM IN RIDGECREST

California's Gov. Gavin Newsom traveled to Ridgecrest Saturday where he addressed residents and the news media about recovery efforts.

Newsom said he had — just minutes before — gotten off the phone with President Trump and he told those gathered he was confident "the federal government has your back" and said be believed a federal emergency declaration would be made soon.

Newsom has already activated state resources.

The governor also said he and Trump talked about what a "remarkable many months" it had been in California, including the numerous wildfires that devastated the state last year.

Newsom said local, state and federal leaders were determined to rebuild "with an enlightened sense of what this community can be moving forward."

"How can we be stronger? How can we be better? How can we be more self reliant, not just resilient," Newsom said of conversations he'd had with local officials.

NEWS FROM TRONA

Damaged house in Trona, California, photographed July 6. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The news appeared less bright in tiny Trona, which bills itself as being 10 miles from the end of the world. The town with a population of about 1,500 residents was without power and road into the community were also damaged by rock slides.

San Bernardino County officials said they were continuing to get emergency supplies into the Trona area.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

Seismologists now say that initial earthquake was a foreshock to the much strong temblor that hit Friday night.

That series of events, a big quake followed by an even stronger earthquake, is a known phenomenon.

"This is the same sequence," Dr. Lucy Jones tweeted Friday before speaking to the news media at CalTech. "You know we say 1 in 20 chance that an earthquake will be followed by something bigger? This is that 1 in 20 time."

At around 1 a.m. this morning, California governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency for San Bernardino County, which is next to Kern County, where both quakes were centered. The proclamation gives local agencies access to additional resources to help repair damage to roads, gas lines and other infrastructure.

Broken bottles cover the floor of a liquor store in Ridgecrest, California, on July 6, 2019 (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

WHO FELT IT

The shaking Friday night was felt over a massive area, from Las Vegas to L.A. down to Mexico and up to Sacramento. It was preceded by a few minutes with a 5.0 magnitude quake and followed by a few dozen aftershocks registering higher than a 4.0.

Seismologists cautioned that it is still possible that a quake larger than 7.1 could take place in the Little Lake fault zone that has been so active over the last few days.

Cracks are seen on a road running parallel to Highway 178 which heads north from Ridgecrest to Trona on July 4, 2019. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Officials said early-warning systems worked for residents closer to the epicenter where the shaking was the strongest. But L.A. residents did not receive ShakeAlertLA warnings before either of the significant quakes.

When the magnitude 6.4 temblor didn't trigger any notifications from the app, many residents were left wondering why.

The answer? The threshold for an alert was higher than the projected shaking in Los Angeles. The app only warns users when the shaking that's likely to be felt within L.A. County is higher than a magnitude 5.0. After yesterday's earthquake, officials announced they would lower that threshold to 4.5, but the app won't be updated until the end of the month.

Jones, who has played a major role in urging the region to do more to prepare, said the current warning system is far from complete.


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"There was a proposed budget that was very bare bones and we haven't even gotten that. The system is not up and functioning," Jones told our science reporter, Jacob Margolis, on Saturday morning. "The system doesn't work really well right not because we haven't paid anywhere near enough."

Robert Graves, a seismologist from the U.S. Geological Survey, during a news conference Friday at CalTech. (John Antczak/AP)

Fires, injuries and significant damage to roads and stores have been reported, but no known serious injuries have been caused by these quakes. The quakes were centered in an area about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

At magnitude 7.1, Friday night's temblor falls into the category of a major earthquake but it was not what everyone has come to know as a "Big One."

By comparison, the 1994 Northridge quake, which was a magnitude 6.7, struck in a densely populated area, killied more than 50 people, injured thousands of others and caused billions of dollars in damage.

FRAYED NERVES

"It's pretty bad out here. This place is pretty trashed," Steven Rahal told LAist. He was working at a Shell gas station and convenience store in Ridgecrest when the Friday night earthquake hit. He was outside when the shaking started and said, "I had to get away from the building because the whole building was rocking back and forth."

After the shaking stopped and he went back into the store to survey the damage, he found: "Wine everywhere. Foods all over the place. There wasn't a thing left on the shelves, pretty much. It was really bad."

Even the toilet was pulled off its moorings and is now laying on its side

"Everywhere in town is pretty much wrecked. All the shelves are on the ground and people are freaked out. Everybody is really shook about all of this. They're not used to this."

Shaunie French set up a tent in the front yard of her Ridgecrest, CA. (Photo by Sharon McNary for LAist)

Shaunie French, also a Ridgecrest resident, slept in her front yard with her daughter. She said setting up a tent made the most sense to her.

"It was better to be outside than inside, for safety. My nerves are shot to hell," French told LAist. "I need it to stop."

Friday night's temblor was Paul Rizzo's first earthquake. He and his wife, Kathy, are visiting from Illinois to attend a motorcycle convention in Temecula. He said they were in their hotel room when they felt the pre-shock.

"We were actually doing laundry so we were going to go check the laundry and I went out to check the bikes parked under the awning," he told LAist. "And that's when the big one hit. The bikes looked like they were dancing and hers was about to fall over so I ran over to keep it from falling over. And that was about the excitement."

The Rizzos couldn't get back into their hotel until after midnight, when it had been inspected and declared safe, and the and power didn't come back on until 1 or 2 a.m.

Ridgecrest resident Mercy Banales was driving, about two miles away from her house, when Friday night's earthquake started."It shook my truck, it's a big truck, to the side of the road," Banales told LAist, "So I pulled over, turned it off, got out of the vehicle and this man was holding his son tight and he asked me if I was okay."

Family and friends gathered at her home, in part because she has water, food and first aid supplies should they need them but, as she told LAist, "You are never really prepared for something this big."


This story originally published at 7:20 a.m. and was updated multiple times throughout the day.

Aaron Schrank, Jacob Margolis and Megan Garvey contributed to this report.

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