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Strongest earthquake in 20 years rattles Southern California

The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks.

The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10:33 a.m. in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, California.

Multiple injuries and two house fires were reported in the town of 28,000. Emergency crews were also dealing with small vegetation fires, gas leaks and reports of cracked roads, said Kern County Fire Chief David Witt.

He said 15 patients were evacuated from the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital as a precaution and out of concern for aftershocks.

Seismologist Lucy Jones talks during a news conference at the Caltech Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, July 4, 2019. A strong earthquake rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday morning, making hanging lamps sway and photo frames on walls shake. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries but a swarm of aftershocks were reported

Kern County District Supervisor Mick Gleason told CNN there were some structural issues with the hospital and some patients had to be moved from one ward to another and that others were taken to a neighboring building.

Gleason did not say what the structural issues were.

Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said that utility workers were assessing broken gas lines and turning off gas where necessary.

The local senior center was holding a July 4th event when the quake hit and everyone made it out shaken up but without injuries, she said.

A strong earthquake rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing some damage in a town near the epicenter amid a swarm of aftershocks. (July 4)

“Oh, my goodness, there’s another one (quake) right now,” Breeden said on live television as an aftershock struck.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Kern County. The declaration means that the state will help the county and municipalities in it with emergency aid and recovery efforts.

Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden praised Newsom for declaring the emergency. She also noted at a news conference that other nearby governments have offered to help the recovery effort.

President Donald Trump said he was fully briefed on the earthquake and that it “all seems to be very much under control!”

 The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks.

Police and fire officials said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that they have enough resources so far to meet needs in the wake of the earthquake. Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said at a news conference that “we have plenty of resources.”

California Highway Patrol Lt. John Williams says officials have found cracks on several roads in the county, but overpasses and underpasses are in good shape.

A series of aftershocks included a 4.5 magnitude temblor, according to the United States Geological Survey.

“It almost gave me a heart attack,” said Cora Burke, a waitress at Midway Cafe in Ridgecrest, of the big jolt. “It’s just a rolling feeling inside the building, inside the cafe and all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf, glasses, the refrigerator and everything in the small refrigerator fell over.”

Video posted online of a liquor store in Ridgecrest showed the aisles filled with broken wine and liquor bottles, knocked down boxes and other groceries strewn on the floor. Flames were seen shooting out of one home in the community.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab, said the earthquake was the strongest since a 7.1 quake struck in the area on October 16, 1999.

“This has been an extremely quiet abnormal time,” Jones said. “This type of earthquake is much more normal … The long term average is probably once every five or 10 years somewhere in Southern California.”

Jones said that the 6.4 quake centered near the town of Ridgecrest was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 temblor about a half hour earlier.

She said vigorous aftershocks were occurring and that she wouldn’t be surprised if a magnitude 5 quake hit but that they were striking in a remote area, sparsely populated area. “This is an isolated enough location that that’s going to greatly reduce the damage,” she said.

People from Las Vegas to the Pacific Coast reported feeling a rolling motion and took to social media to report it.

Local emergency agencies also took to social media to ask people to only call 911 for emergencies.

“We are very much aware of the significant earthquake that just occurred in Southern California. Please DO NOT call 9-1-1 unless there are injuries or other dangerous conditions. Don’t call for questions please,” the LAPD said in a statement published on Twitter.

There were no reports of serious damage or injuries in Los Angeles, the department said.

The quake was detected by California’s new ShakeAlert system and it provided 48 seconds of warning to the seismology lab well before the shaking arrived at Caltech in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena but it did not trigger a public warning through an app recently made available in Los Angeles County.

USGS seismologist Robert Graves said the ShakeAlert system worked properly.

Graves said it calculated an intensity level for the Los Angeles area that was below the threshold for a public alert. The limits are intended to avoid false alarms.

Ashleigh Chandler, a helicopter rescue EMT at Fort Irwin, California, said the quake happened as she was getting ready for a July 4th party.

“I was just in the living room getting everything ready, we start to feel the shaking, so then I look up and then the wine bottles start rattling and I thought, ‘They’re going to fall.’

“My stepson was in the house and my dog, so we just got everyone outside and then it ended. It was like 15, 20 seconds, maybe. It was pretty good shaking, so I’m out of breath.”

“Everyone’s OK.”

Glenn Pomeroy, the head of California’s Earthquake Authority, said the earthquake is “an important reminder that all of California is earthquake country.”

Pomeroy urged the estimated 2,000 people in the region hit by the quake who have California Earthquake Authority insurance policies to contact their residential insurance agencies as soon as possible. Information on how to file a policy claim is on the agency’s website: EarthquakeAuthority.com, he said.

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Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Rachel Lerman in San Francisco and AP Radio reporter Shelly Adler in Washington, D.C., contributed.

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The quote in the story from Ashleigh Chandler has been corrected to say stepson, not sister. This story has also been corrected to say that Glenn Pomeroy, the head of California’s Earthquake Authority, urges the estimated 2,000 people in the region hit by the quake who have California Earthquake Authority insurance policies to contact their residential insurance agencies as soon as possible.

The Latest: 6.9 earthquake felt in Southern California

The Latest on Southern California’s strongest earthquake in 20 years (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 has jolted Southern California, but there are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, where a magnitude 6.4 quake struck on Thursday. The agency initially said the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.1.

The quake was felt downtown as a rolling motion that seemed to last at least a half-minute. It was felt as far away as Las Vegas, and the USGS says it also was felt in Mexico.

If the preliminary magnitude is correct, it would be the largest Southern California quake in 20 years.

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4 p.m.

Seismologists say there have been 1,700 aftershocks in the wake of the strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years but the chances of another large temblor are diminishing.

A magnitude 5.4 quake at 4:07 a.m. Friday is so far the strongest aftershock of Thursday’s 6.4 quake, which struck in the Mojave Desert near the town of Ridgecrest.

Zachary Ross of the California Institute of Technology says the number of aftershocks might be slightly higher than average. He also says a quake of that size could continue producing aftershocks for years.

A strong earthquake rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing some damage in a town near the epicenter amid a swarm of aftershocks. (July 4)

The quake caused some damage to buildings and roads in and around Ridgecrest.

However, seismologists say it’s unlikely the quake will affect any fault lines away from the immediate area, such as the mighty San Andreas.

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1:20 p.m.

The city of Los Angeles is planning to reduce the threshold for public notifications by its earthquake early warning app, but officials say it was in the works before Southern California’s big earthquake Thursday.

The ShakeAlert LA app was designed to notify users of magnitudes of 5.0 or greater and when a separate intensity scale predicts potentially damaging shaking.

Robert de Groot of the U.S. Geological Survey says lowering the magnitude to 4.5 was already being worked on and had been discussed with LA as recently as a day before Thursday’s magnitude 6.4 quake centered in the Mojave Desert.

The shaking intensity levels predicted for LA were below damaging levels, so an alert was not triggered.

Mayor’s office spokeswoman Andrea Garcia also says the lower magnitude threshold has been in the planning stages and an update to the system is expected this month.

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7:05 a.m.

A vigorous aftershock sequence is following the strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years.

A magnitude 5.4 quake at 4:07 a.m. Friday is so far the strongest aftershock of Thursday’s magnitude 6.4 jolt, and was felt widely.

Seismologists had said there was an 80% probability of an aftershock of that strength.

Thursday’s big quake struck in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, which suffered damage to buildings and roads.

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9 p.m.

The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on the July 4th holiday, rattling nerves and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks.

The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10:33 a.m. Thursday in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, California.

Kern County Fire Chief David Witt says multiple injuries and two house fires were reported in the town of 28,000. Emergency crews were also dealing with small vegetation fires, gas leaks and reports of cracked roads.

Witt says 15 patients were evacuated from the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital as a precaution and out of concern for aftershocks.

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake jolted Southern California and was felt as far away as Mexico Friday night, but no major damage was reported.

The quake, which initially was reported as magnitude 7.1, would be the largest temblor in the region in 20 years and was centered in the same area as a 6.4 quake that hit a day earlier.

The shaker at 8:19 p.m. was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, a Mojave Desert town 150 miles (240 kilometers) away from Los Angeles that saw building damage, fires and several injuries from the earlier quake.

Officials in San Bernardino County reported homes shifting, foundation cracking and retaining walls coming down. One person suffered minor injuries and was being treated by firefighters, they said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab, tweeted that the quake was part of the sequence that produced the earlier quake.

The new jolt was felt in downtown Los Angeles as a rolling motion that seemed to last at least a half-minute. Reports said the quake rocked chandeliers and rattled furniture as far away as Las Vegas, and the U.S. Geological Survey said it was felt in Mexico as well.

Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department told KNX-AM radio says more than 1,000 firefighters were mobilized, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The press box at Dodger Stadium lurched for several seconds, and fans in the upper deck appeared to be moving toward the exit. Enrique Hernandez of the Dodgers was at-bat in the bottom of the fourth when the quake occurred. He stepped out of the batter’s box, but it wasn’t clear if that was because of the quake.

An NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas was stopped after the quake. Speakers over the court at the Thomas & Mack Center continued swaying more than 10 minutes after the quake.

The quake came as communities in the Mojave Desert tallied damage and made emergency repairs to cracked roads and broken pipes from the earlier quake.

Hours earlier, seismologists had said that quake had been followed by more than 1,700 aftershocks and that they might continue for years. However, that quake would now be considered a foreshock to the Friday night temblor.

Andrew Lippman, who lives in suburban South Pasadena, was sitting outside and reading the paper when Friday’s quake hit.

“It just started getting stronger and stronger, and I looked into my house and the lamp started to sway. I could see power lines swaying,” he said. “This one seemed 45 (seconds)… I’m still straightening pictures.”

Damage from Thursday’s quake appeared limited to desert areas, although the quake was felt widely. The largest aftershock — magnitude 5.4 — was also felt in Los Angeles before dawn Friday.

At an afternoon news conference, a seismologist had said the odds of a quake of magnitude 6.0 or larger happening in the next few days was only 6 percent and dwindling.

Earlier Friday, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital remained closed as state inspectors assessed it, spokeswoman Jayde Glenn said. The hospital’s own review found no structural damage, but there were cracks in walls, broken water pipes and water damage.

The hospital was prepared to help women in labor and to give triage care to emergency patients. Fifteen patients were evacuated to other hospitals after the quake, Glenn said.

The quake did not appear to have caused major damage to roads and bridges in the area, but it did open three cracks across a short stretch of State Route 178 near the tiny town of Trona, said California Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Christine Knadler.

Those cracks were temporarily sealed, but engineers were investigating whether the two-lane highway was damaged beneath the cracks, Knadler said. Bridges in the area were also being checked.

The Ridgecrest library was closed as volunteers and staff picked up hundreds of books that fell off shelves. The building’s cinderblock walls also had some cracks, said Charissa Wagner, library branch supervisor.

Wagner was at her home in the small city of 29,000 people when a small foreshock hit, followed by the large one, putting her and her 11-year-old daughter on edge.

“The little one was like, ‘Oh what just happened.’ The big one came later and that was scarier,” she said.

The earthquake knocked over a boulder that sat atop one of the rock spires at Trona Pinnacles outside of Ridgecrest, a collection of towering rock formations that has been featured in commercials and films, said Martha Maciel, a Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman in California.

Meanwhile, the nation’s second-largest city revealed plans to lower slightly the threshold for public alerts from its earthquake early warning app. But officials said the change was in the works before the quake, which gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab 48 seconds of warning but did not trigger a public notification.

“Our goal is to alert people who might experience potentially damaging shaking, not just feel the shaking,” said Robert de Groot, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert system, which is being developed for California, Oregon and Washington.

The West Coast ShakeAlert system has provided non-public earthquake notifications on a daily basis to many test users, including emergency agencies, industries, transportation systems and schools.

Late last year, the city of Los Angeles released a mobile app intended to provide ShakeAlert warnings for users within Los Angeles County.

The trigger threshold for LA’s app required a magnitude 5 or greater and an estimate of level 4 on the separate Modified Mercali Intensity scale, the level at which there is potentially damaging shaking.

Although Thursday’s quake was well above magnitude 5, the expected shaking for the Los Angeles area was level 3, de Groot said.

A revision of the magnitude threshold down to 4.5 was already underway, but the shaking intensity level would remain at 4. The rationale is to avoid numerous ShakeAlerts for small earthquakes that do not affect people.

“If people get saturated with these messages, it’s going to make people not care as much,” he said.

Construction of a network of seismic-monitoring stations for the West Coast is just over half complete, with most coverage in Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area and the Seattle-Tacoma area. Eventually, the system will send out alerts over the same system used for Amber Alerts to defined areas that are expected to be affected by a quake, de Groot said.

California is partnering with the federal government to build the statewide earthquake warning system, with the goal of turning it on by June 2021. The state has already spent at least $25 million building it, including installing hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state.

This year, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state needed $16.3 million to finish the project, which included money for stations to monitor seismic activity, plus nearly $7 million for “outreach and education.” The state Legislature approved the funding last month, and Newsom signed it into law.

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