Ridgecrest rattled by 6.4 quake

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Ridgecrest rattled by 6.4 quakeThe city of Ridgecrest was shaken by the largest earthquake Southern California has experienced in decades, which hit at 10:33 a.m. on July 4. Although the quake apparently caused no fatalities, the incident triggered widespread damages, injuries and disruptions of services.

The epicenter was located about halfway between Ridgecrest and Trona.

The earthquake was originally reported to be a 6.6 magnitude, but the U.S. Geological Survey later downgraded the event to a 6.4. USGS officials report that Thursday’s quake is the most significant seismic event in the region since a 6.9 magnitude quake 30 years ago.

Hundreds of aftershocks have followed the event, with many registering 4.0 or above.

Aftershocks will continue, report officials, with about a 5 percent chance that an even bigger event will follow in a few days.

Disruption of utility, cell and internet service was reported by many Searles and Indian Wells Valley residents following the event, though most were restored within a few hours of the event.

In the mean time, public health and safety officials have rallied to serve residents who have been injured, displaced or otherwise impacted by the incident.

“Today, our capabilities were put to the test,” Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said during a joint press conference with city and county officials Thursday afternoon. “I am proud of the members of this agency and the members of this great community who stood up to the challenge.”

Among the damages he reported were a fire of indeterminate cause, downed power lines and structural damages to homes.

“Allied law enforcement agencies within Kern County, the California Highway Patrol, and San Bernardino County, responded to assist our efforts. Kern County Fire and members of [California Office of Emergency Services] brought several teams to the area as well,” he said.

“Our combined efforts were able to stabilize the rapidly evolving situations. All while dealing with continued aftershocks of the earthquake. Our community’s safety is our upmost priority. As such, officers from numerous law enforcement agencies will be patrolling the Ridgecrest neighborhoods to assist with any emergency situations that may arise. Moving forward, we remind our community to stay alert and be proactive with helping your neighbors.”

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver reported in a separate press conference that the hospital was evacuating its 25 patients out of “an abundance of caution” as the new tower survived its first significant earthquake since it was built in 2009.

Intensive Care Unit patients were the first to transfer out, by helicopter, while other patients were transferred by ground ambulance, said Suver. Patients were transported to hospitals in Los Angeles and Kern counties according to the nature of services needed.

He said that 10-20 patients came in following the earthquake seeking treatment for significant, but not life-threatening, injuries.

Suver also praised the hospital staff for managing the care and transfer of patients during the emergency.

Both press conferences were covered by state and national media outlets.

RPD has said that as aftershocks continue, the Red Cross has established a Relocation Assistance Center at the Kerr McGee Center.

Utility problems should be reported directly to the utility companies, he said. Homeowners should not turn off their gas unless they small gas, according to PG&E representatives.

Residents have been encouraged to prepare to “shelter in place” in the event of an aftershock of greater magnitude.

Suver reported that the hospital will continue to see walk-in patients in need of emergency treatment. Those needs will be assessed on site to determine whether transfer or treatment is appropriate.

The hospital also thanked McDonald’s, Walmart and Big 5 for coming through with emergency supplies. Several churches have also established food service for residents who are still without power.

Elected officials have also been coordinating with emergency services as the needs for public health and safety continued to be assessed and administered.

“I’m working with state and local officials to assess the damage and provide any support and resources needed,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Thank you to the many first responders who are already on the scene.”

“I am thankful for our first responders who are assisting “those impacted by the earthquake outside of Ridgecrest,” said State Sen. Republican Leader Shannon Grove. “My prayers are with those affected by the 6.4 tremblor this morning.”

She thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom for his support during the state of emergency.

“I have been monitoring the precarious situation with the Office of Emergency Services and local elected leaders. We urge you to please follow the advice of emergency officials and adhere to all emergency warnings and alerts,” said Grove.

“America has always been a country who has prevailed and is quick to lend a helping hand. Today is no different as local and state agencies unite to help our affected residents. It’s especially relevant since today we commemorate America’s birthday.”

“We are all hands-on deck to bring every resource possible to respond to the Ridgecrest earthquake,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong. “I am working with every entity, including the White House, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, FEMA, the California Governor, local elected officials and law enforcement to ensure we are doing everything we can to provide needed aid and logistical support. I am closely monitoring the damage in the region and will provide updates as we receive them.

“I am incredibly proud of our law enforcement and emergency responders who rushed to the scene on the Fourth of July, and all the state and federal staff who immediately communicated with our community on how they are helping to address current and future danger in our community. We continue to be concerned about aftershocks,” he said.

“With California’s declaration of emergency, we have opened all lines of communication and resources that will help our collective efforts to respond to current damage and to mitigate any potential future risks from anticipated aftershocks. I have the utmost confidence in Kern County to respond to this natural disaster with the resilience that is the hallmark of our community.”

“The Ridgecrest Police Department would like to give thanks to all the extended prayers and help from the community and to all of the many departments and the Office of Emergency Services that came to lend a hand and have extended their help to the City of Ridgecrest,” said McLaughlin.

Story First Published: 2019-07-04