Months of aftershocks could follow big California earthquake

  • A crack is seen in a gas station's driveway in the aftermath of an earthquake Saturday in Trona, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

RIDGECREST, Calif. — Officials in Southern California expressed relief Saturday that damage and injuries weren’t worse after the largest earthquake the region has seen in nearly 20 years, while voicing concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy’s largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert.

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The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit just a day earlier. It left behind cracked and burning buildings, broken roads, obstructed railroad tracks and leaking water and gas lines.

The light damage was largely due to the remoteness of the area where the earthquake occurred, but Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first.”

He estimated more than $100 million in economic damages and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support in the rebuilding effort.

“He’s committed in the long haul, the long run, to help support the rebuilding efforts,” Newsom said of Trump.

Only 28,000 people live in the Ridgecrest area, which is sandwiched between more populated areas of Southern California and Las Vegas’ Clark County. But seismologists warned that the area could see up to 30,000 aftershocks over the next six months.

April Hamlin said she was “already on edge” when the second quake rattled her Ridgecrest home.

She and her three kids initially thought it was another aftershock.

“But it just kept on intensifying,” she said.

“The TV went over, hanging by the cord. We heard it break. We heard glass breakage in the other rooms, but all we could do was stay where we were until it stopped.”

With the possibility of aftershocks and temperatures forecast to reach 100 degrees over the next several days, officials were taking precautions.

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The California National Guard was sending 200 troops, logistical support and aircraft, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said. The Pentagon had been notified, and the entire California Military Department was put on alert, he said.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake said in a Facebook post that nonessential workers were evacuated and operations halted.

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