Two strong quakes startled residents of Southern California with a 6.4 temblor during Independence Day and a severe follow-up of 7.1 magnitude on Friday night. These earthquakes were the strongest to hit the region in 25 years since 1999. The magnitude of the quake was also felt from Sacramento to Mexico.
The 28,000 residents in Ridgecrest, California may be oblivious to small tremors that usually pass by their town, but the two consecutive days of extreme hits have shaken them. According to the California Institute of Technology, Ridgecrest was once regarded as the earthquake capital of the world with tremors and intermittent shaking a part of the residents’ daily life. Its reputation reached new heights with these two record-breaking earthquakes after more than two decades. The epicenter was in an area which is around 10 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, a city about 150 miles north-east of Los Angeles.
Since Thursday, Southern California has experienced more than 4,700 earthquakes according to US Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicist John Bellini. After the strong 7.1 shake, the region felt aftershocks an average of every minute according to the USGS website. These include three five-magnitude or more tremors that struck within one hour after the 7.1 scare that left residents sleepless and distraught for days.
With the severity of the damages and the continued aftershocks, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency late Thursday and warned residents to stay alert of possible tremors that might hit again. “As Californians, we always have to be prepared for the next earthquake,” the governor tweeted via the social media site.
The governor also requested the issuance of an emergency declaration from the Office of the President and FEMA which will provide federal funds for the affected communities.
The California crews are still making a comprehensive assessment of the damage, injuries and fatalities, if any, after the strong quakes rocked buildings, homes, roads, water and gas lines, and other infrastructure. Officials estimated around 50 structures were damaged, with gas leaks causing fires, damaged water lines, rockslides and cracks on the roadway, and power outages in some areas. Fortunately, a fire officer said that there has been zero fatalities or major injuries in the small town.
Social media sites were flooded with images and videos of buildings dancing to the rhythm of the quakes, goods like inflatable pipe plugs falling from shelves, vehicles being toyed with by the earth’s breathing and establishments’ lighting swaying side to side. Residents, businesses and media companies shared the nightmares they experienced during the two big quakes and aftershocks that ensued. Also, citizens complained when the USGS-built app, ShakeAlertLA, has not sent any alerts when the two big tremors happened.
Various government agencies have been mobilized to respond to the affected small desert communities. The California National Guard has deployed 200 troops for logistical support and aircraft. After the Pentagon was notified, the entire California Military Department has been put on alert. Around 100 personnel from the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Fresno have been sent to the area to assist with the recovery. The American Red Cross has provided medical assistance, emergency needs, meals and emotional support by opening an around-the-clock shelter in Ridgecrest.