BY MAUREEN STRODE, TEDDY FEINBERG,
DARLA A. BAKER AND CHRISTINE L. PETERSON
The Bakersfield Californian
RIDGECREST — A magnitude 6.4 earthquake rocked Ridgecrest and the Mojave Desert on Thursday, prompting California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Kern County and President Donald Trump to tweet that he had been fully briefed.
The temblor hit Searles Valley, near the Kern-San Bernardino county line, at 10:33 a.m. It was the strongest earthquake to strike Southern California in nearly 20 years, and led to more than 87 aftershocks, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Just like the movie 'San Andreas.' Just like it. A lot of shaking, a lot of banging," said Terrell Jenkins, of Ridgecrest. The earthquake woke him up and he immediately covered his daughter lying next to him.
The Kern County Fire Department along with Kern County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue teams descended on the region. Because there were so many calls for service, Los Angeles County, the Kern County Office of Emergency Services and the Bakersfield Police Department sent more resources.
Calls came in for everything from injuries to structure fires, downed power lines, vegetation fires and gas leaks. All reports of injuries appeared to be minor, according to the Kern County Fire Department. Some power and gas was shut off as a precaution.
Kern County Fire Chief David Witt said at a Thursday night news conference that initially some 7,000 people were without power throughout Southern California because of the earthquake, but by 7 p.m. the number was estimated to have fallen to 1,300.
The KCFD inspected the safety of highway passes through area canyons. The department reported that at least 15 patients at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital were moved to the Burroughs High School gymnasium due to massive structural damage.
The California Highway Patrol in Mojave cleared debris and large boulders on roadways.
Hall Ambulance sent a strike team from Bakersfield to Ridgecrest. It included five advanced life support ambulances, two basic life support ambulances, a disaster medical unit and a paramedic field supervisor unit. This includes six paramedics, one registered nurse and 12 emergency medical technicians.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to show his support for first responders.
"I’m working with state and local officials to assess the damage and provide any support and resources needed. THANK YOU to the many first responders who are already on the scene," McCarthy tweeted.
ON THE GROUND IN RIDGECREST
While Independence Day festivities were in full swing across Kern County, the mood was subdued in this city of some 28,000 people. Stores were shuttered and fireworks stands weren't attracting their usual business. The city's major fireworks extravaganza took place Saturday night.
A mobile home at Trousdale Estates at 210 W. Ward Ave. in Ridgecrest was damaged. Property manager Sarah Baird, who lives across the street from the damaged home, predicted it would be considered a "total loss."
Baird said the residents of the home, a woman whose name was given only as Bridget and her great-granddaughter, were inside at the time of the earthquake and had to be pulled out. Bridget was too shaken to comment.
People throughout the community were deeply impacted by what they'd seen and felt.
"Horrific," Jayde Glenn, marketing director of Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, said of the earthquake. She is from London and had never been through an earthquake before Thursday.
"It was the most frightening experience of my life," Glenn said, adding she stepped on broken glass as she tried to leave her Ridgecrest home.
Denise Preul, who depends on oxygen, called the experience "awful."
There was "a lot of shaking and a lot of noise," said Preul, who relied on another family member to bring her portable oxygen as the power was out at her place for about four hours.
Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden declared a state of emergency in Ridgecrest.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Breeden said, adding it's better to have the support of other government agencies in case of more damage.
"We expect we will be able to recover from this," Breeden said.
The Buttermilk Acres Gas Station on Inyokern Road had U-Hauls surrounding the pumps, preventing anyone from pumping gas there.
Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, on North China Lake Boulevard, served as a triage center for the community.
Police officers, doctors and nurses attended to patients outside the hospital. One woman who was inside the hospital at the time of the earthquake was later outside where an injury to her left leg had been treated. Nobody with major injuries was evident as of about 2:30 p.m.
Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said the city's dispatch center had been "inundated with calls" of fires and store owners and employees reporting items falling off of shelves. Because of the holiday, McLaughlin said, he had to call in "anyone available" to help with the volume of calls for help.
RPD officers conducted grid searches of streets to check for any damage. Multiple apartment complexes were evacuated.
A structure fire in Ridgecrest was reported after the earthquake, and the KCFD was able to save about 50 percent of the home.
Maricelly Chavez walked up to the entrance of the Ridgecrest Walmart looking for water. Department Manager Logan Shuron, standing outside the shuttered store, explained the store ran out of water it had been giving away to residents. More supplies were on the way, he said, and the store was hoping to reopen by 6 p.m. In the meantime he gave her the phone number of a local church that was handing out water.
Chavez said she'd driven 20 minutes from the community of Inyokern because the two gas stations and a dollar store there were all out.
"Everybody's looking for water," she said.
Shuron, 20, said he was moving furniture with two other sales associates inside Walmart when the quake started. One of the women stumbled and the other began to have a panic attack, he said. He said he quickly gathered them and any customers in his way and guided them to the exit. The store aisles were littered with merchandise and he said the store was closed for crews to clean it up.
"We stood strong," he said. Dozens of cars pulled up as he spoke, asking if the store was open, and if water was still available.
Ed's Mini Mart and Liquor employee Josh Schwartz said a lot came falling down off the shelves. The store had a strong odor of alcohol from broken bottles. People’s feet were noticeably sticking to the floor when they walked.
“All the beer, liquor, wine,” came off the shelves, according to Schwartz.
He said the earthquake happened when he was home.
“I was able to wake up, get out of bed and talk to my girlfriend for 20 seconds. Forty seconds total.”
Authorities urged those in Ridgecrest to check on neighbors, family and friends, and to keep food and water available in case another quake were to strike the area.
HOW IT COMPARES
Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology, said Thursday's earthquake was the strongest recorded in Southern California since Oct. 16, 1999. That was the magnitude 7.1 Hector Mine temblor at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base.
Over the past 40 years, there have been eight other magnitude 5.0 and larger earthquakes within 50 kilometers of Thursday’s 6.4 earthquake, said Jana Pursley, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
The largest nearby prior to Thursday’s earthquakes was a magnitude 5.8 quake on Sept. 20, 1995, about 13 kilometers away, Pursley said.
RIPPLES FELT IN BAKERSFIELD
Christopher Brown, 25, was sitting in his car at a Starbucks drive-thru on Ming Avenue when his car started to shake.
"At first I thought, 'Whoa, is there something wrong with my car?'" Brown said. "I know my engine is powerful, but this is just ridiculous."
He then realized that it wasn't his engine — it was in fact an earthquake, something that he had felt before, but about a decade ago in Southern California.
Others in Bakersfield felt the effects of the earthquake. Michele Leming, 40, of the downtown Westchester neighborhood, has felt quite a few earthquakes, but this one was pretty big, she said.
"I was on our bed, and our bed has wheels. It was kind of swaying back and forth. At first I thought it was my dog," Leming said. "Then I was like, 'Wait a minute, that's going on too long.' Then I realized 'Wow. We just had an earthquake.'"
TEHACHAPI FEELS QUAKES
Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett said he undertook a citywide assessment to make sure everything was safe in the mountain community. It was, he said.
“The first thing I did was make sure the city of Tehachapi was unharmed,” Garrett said. “The second thing I did was call Ron Strand, in Ridgecrest, the city manager, to offer any and all assistance. They are assessing the damage.”
He added the city of Tehachapi would be ready to provide help “at a moment’s notice."
Residents of Tehachapi reported feeling the quake.
Christina Scrivner, the Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley Foundation manager and wife of Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, said she was upstairs in her Tehachapi home when she felt the quake.
She grew concerned as it became more intense, and was happy to hear her family members downstairs were safe.
Scrivner has a lot of family members in Ridgecrest. She said her parents reported dishes falling out of the cabinets. Her uncle, who was walking outside, fell and injured his arm. Otherwise, she said, her family seemed to be OK.
Tehachapi resident Wendy Von Rueden was in Philip Marx Central Park for Independence Day festivities Thursday morning. She and her husband were standing under a tree when they both felt the earth shake.
Von Rueden said it felt like she was standing on a platform that was shaking, while she said her husband described it as a rolling quake. It seemed to last a long time, she said.
Strode and Peterson reported from Bakersfield; Feinberg reported from Ridgecrest and Bakersfield; Baker reported from Tehachapi and Ridgecrest.