Riverside County escaped damage from a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in the same Mojave Desert area where a 6.4 quake struck a day earlier, but seismologists said Sunday that the danger is not over yet, with a high number of aftershocks expected over the next week and the possibility of another sizable temblor.
Two California Office of Emergency Services engine crews from the Riverside City Fire Department were deployed to the Kern County city of Ridgecrest to help authorities there in assessing damage to homes and businesses following Friday night’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.
The powerful quake struck about 8:16 p.m. Friday, about 9 miles west-southwest of Searles Valley in southwestern San Bernardino County, and occurred on the same fault that produced a magnitude 6.4 foreshock on Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
There were no reports of serious damage in Riverside County.
Many aftershocks followed, the majority between magnitude 3 and 4. The USGS estimated a 3% chance of another earthquake of magnitude 7 or greater striking the region within the next week. The chance of a quake of magnitude 6 or higher was estimated at 27%, and it is most likely that as many as two such quakes will occur. The chance of a magnitude 5 or higher quake is 96%, with as many as eight likely to occur, the USGS said.
Seismologists say they anticipate between 240 and 410 quakes of magnitude 3 or higher.
“Prepare yourself for the next week to two weeks, this isn’t going to stop in the near future,” Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin told residents late Friday night.
Only minor injuries, “cuts and bruises,” were reported in Ridgecrest. The city’s water system is intact without contamination and the hospital is under a “shelter in place” order until the integrity of the building can be assessed, McLaughlin said.
On Saturday, Caltrans reported that all roads near the quake area were open, including State Route 178, which re-opened after emergency temporary repairs.
Many residents of Ridgecrest were sleeping outside — fearful to be in their homes — choosing to be with their neighbors in their driveways and in the streets, according to Mayor Peggy Breeden.
“It is not an impossible task to take care of all of this, but it is going to be a larger task than we thought the other day,” Breeden said.
It was the largest in Southern California since a 7.1 quake in 1999 hit the Hector Mines area of the Mojave Desert.
Cracked buildings and injuries were reported in Kern and San Bernardino counties, ABC7 reported.
Gov. Gavin Newsom surveyed quake damage in the Ridgecrest area on Saturday and said he had discussed the situation with President Donald Trump. Newsom has requested a presidential emergency declaration for direct federal assistance to further support emergency response and recovery in impacted communities and activated the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to its highest level. The state is also coordinating mutual aid to local first responders, Newsom said.
“I have all the confidence in the world that the president will be forthcoming in immediate terms with the federal declaration,” Newsom said during a news conference following his tour. “We don’t agree on everything, but one area where there’s no politics, and we (have) worked extraordinarily well together is on emergency response and recovery, and increasing that emergency preparedness.”
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