Southern California will likely see one or two temblors magnitude 6 or higher within the next week after experiencing its largest earthquake in nearly 20 years, experts said Saturday.
The probability of that happening was estimated at 27% on Saturday, Caltech seismologist Dr. Egill Hauksson said. Meanwhile, there was a 3% chance for an earthquake magnitude 7 or higher.
A 7.1 magnitude quake centered about 11 miles north of Ridgecrest struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday, rattling the Kern County city of 27,000 and the nearby small town of Trona in San Bernardino County. The area appears to have taken the brunt of the damage, which includes major cracking on the State Route 178, at least one collapsed building and a fissure that stretched across the Mojave Desert. No major injuries or fatalities have been reported.
More than 3,000 earthquakes have been recorded in this sequence, Caltech seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones said early Saturday evening.
But she added that the probability of large quakes was continually decreasing as time passed.
The sequence of quakes was diminishing at a rate "on the high side of average," Jones said via social media Saturday night.
"So the probabilities of more aftershocks are dropping," she said. "In the next week, (magnitude)-4s are still certain, a couple of (magnitude)-5s are likely, but larger quakes are looking more improbable."
The magnitude 7.1 earthquake was felt as far as Sacramento, Las Vegas and Mexico.
About 150 miles away, in downtown Los Angeles, skyscrapers swayed for at least 30 seconds. Disneyland in Anaheim and Six Flags magic Mountain in Santa Clarita shut down their rides.
Just the day before, a weaker, magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the same area in Kern County at 10:33 a.m.
"For a while, Ridgecrest was known as the earthquake capital of the world cause it had so many small quakes. So, it’s not a surprise that the earthquake happened," Hauksson said.
Since the two earthquakes hit, there have been 52 seismic events greater than magnitude 4 and 340 stronger than magnitude 3, the Caltech seismologist said.
Jones previously reassured the public that the seismic activity is unlikely to affect fault lines outside the area and that the massive San Andreas Fault is far away.
“These earthquakes, we’re lucky in that the energy in them is mostly going to the north, away from Los Angeles,” Hauksson said. “If they were rupturing form north to south, then there would be more likelihood to have damage in say, Palmdale or other areas.”
The damage has not been extensive as expected, according to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Governor's Office of Emergency Services.
With many in Kern County afraid to stay in their homes, some 200 people are staying at the shelter set up by the Red Cross at the Kerr McGee Center in Ridgecrest, Ghilarducci said at a news conference Saturday. It has the capacity to hold up to 500 people, according to the Red Cross.
Local officials also confirmed that some people have tried to steal from businesses and homes since the earthquakes struck. Those incidents are under investigation.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has already approved an emergency proclamation for Kern and San Bernardino counties, toured the damage zone in Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas on Saturday.
He has also requested a presidential emergency declaration for direct federal assistance for the communities affected by the earthquakes.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, after talking to the president, that he’s committed in the long run, in the long haul, to help support the rebuilding efforts that we are,” the governor said at a news conference in Ridgecrest.
Officials in Ridgecrest gave out the following contact numbers for residents:
- Pacific Gas & Electric emergency line: 888-743-4911
- Southern California Edison: 800-655-4555
- Nonemergency, missing persons, Ridgecrest Police Department: 760-499-5100
- For damage to homes, Ridgecrest Department of Public Works: 760-499-5083