California experienced its largest tremor in years Thursday as a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck a remote region in the southeastern part of the state.
The U.S. Geological Survey pinpointed the epicenter near Ridgecrest, in a remote region about 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles between the Sequoia National Forest and the Mojave Desert.
President Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon that he had been “fully briefed” about the earthquake.
Aftershocks could continue to affect the region for days, USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso told The Washington Post, noting that there was a very slim chance that a larger earthquake could follow.
Caruso said the remote location of the quake spared California the kind of catastrophic damage and casualties of an event like the 6.7-magnitude Northridge Earthquake, which struck Los Angeles in 1994, killing 57 people and causing billions in damage.
But area residents still had to contend with minor injuries, power failures and damaged infrastructure from Thursday’s quake, which struck during a holiday.
Ridgecrest, a city of about 28,000 located near the epicenter of the quake, had declared a state of emergency, Mayor Peggy Breeden told CNN.
Emergency responders were “inundated with calls, with fires, and obviously stores that were shaken with stuff falling off the shelves," Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said at an afternoon news conference. The chaos “took a toll” on the dispatch center, he said, especially with staffing lower than normal for the holiday.
Kern County Fire Battalion Chief Jason Schillinger added that he thinks his department has “a sufficient amount of resources, and we are ready for the future and any aftershocks.”
At an earlier news conference, Kern County Fire Chief David Witt had said his department was aware of “multiple injuries, two house fires, small vegetation fires,” as well as some downed power lines and gas leaks. He did not know the exact number of injuries but said they were minor. He also confirmed that the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital was being evacuated.
Kern County, which includes Ridgecrest, had no reported deaths so far, Supervisor Mick Gleason told CNN. He said the hospital was being evacuated as a precaution and because of “some issues with the structure."
Jason Corona was at home in Ridgecrest when the biggest tremors hit. He had heard earlier about a smaller earthquake but he was not worried. “We have earthquakes all the time,” he told The Post. But when he saw the water sloshing out of the pool in his backyard, he started calling relatives to make sure they were okay.
After the worst was over, he headed over to the restaurant his family owns, Casa Corona. The power was out, panels had fallen from the ceiling, and dishes and liquor bottles were smashed. He guesses the damage will be in the thousands of dollars.
Similar scenes of destruction flooded social media, as area residents posted photos and videos of swaying chandeliers, cracked pavement and supermarket floors strewn with products.
Jodi Miller, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, told The Post that the department has not received any reports of damaged buildings, but that the earthquake caused a 12-inch crack in Highway 178 and the state transportation department had been notified. The quake also set off house alarms, Miller said.
The city of Bakersfield felt the quake but had no reports of injuries or damage, police department spokesman Nathan McCauley said.
The Los Angeles Police Department tweeted that “at this time, there are not any reports of serious damage to City infrastructure, nor have any injuries been reported" in the city.
Caruso of the USGS said people reported feeling the quake as far away as Phoenix and Las Vegas. In Los Angeles, social media users posted images of swaying lamps and sloshing pools to demonstrate the Earth’s movement.
Thursday’s disturbance was a “strike-slip” quake, in which two sides of a fault slide past each other and generate horizontal movement. It was not on the San Andreas Fault, but on one of a large system of faults associated with it, Caruso said.
Like most California earthquakes, this quake was shallow, just 8.7 kilometers (5.4 miles) below the surface. California has seen only a handful of earthquakes of similar or greater strength in recent years, according to the USGS, including a magnitude-7.1 quake that hit a remote part of the Mojave Desert near Twentynine Palms in 1999.
Kandi Wilbanks, 55, was helping a customer in the sporting goods section at Isabella Supermarket in Lake Isabella, about an hour west of Ridgecrest, when everything in the store began to shake, she told The Post. Wine bottles fell and cracked. Jello slid off the shelves.
“Everybody just kind of stopped,” she said, noting that the store was busy because of the Fourth of July holiday. “And then I think when it really hit harder is when people started to think, ‘we need to get outside.’” People rushed toward the door — including Wilbanks, but before she could get out, the shaking subsided.
“And then it was done,” she said.
It took employees three hours to finish cleaning up the mess, she said, and she even called in her children to help. But the supermarket just kept doing business.