California governor says earthquakes are a ‘wakeup call’
RIDGECREST, Calif. – The two major earthquakes that hit Southern California should alert people across the nation of the need to be prepared for natural disasters, the state’s governor said as officials expressed relief that the damages weren’t worse.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should make sure they know how to protect themselves during an earthquake.
“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” Newsom said at a news conference to update the public on the state’s efforts to help the region hit by earthquakes on Thursday and Friday.
Friday’s earthquake was the largest one Southern California in nearly 20 years. Officials voiced concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come.
No fatalities or major injuries were reported after the 7.1-magnitude quake, 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.
The quake struck at 8:19 p.m. Friday and was centered 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Ridgecrest, the same area of the desert where a 6.4-magnitude temblor hit on Thursday. 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 Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that “it’s deceiving, earthquake damage. You don’t notice it at first.”
Newsom 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,” Hamlin 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 (38 Celsius) over the next several days, officials were taking precautions.
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.
The epicenters of both quakes were on the base, and officials said they are continuing to assess damage.
Officials said most employees live off the base and in Ridgecrest, but they authorized the evacuation so those who live on base can be eligible for reimbursements.
The California Office of Emergency Services brought in cots, water and meals and set up cooling centers in the region, Director Mark Ghilarducci said.
State highway officials shut down a 30-mile (48-kilometer) section of State Route 178 between Ridgecrest and the town of Trona southwest of Death Valley because of a rockslide and severe cracking. The move left Trona temporarily cut off. California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Christine Knadler said crews worked through the night to patch the roadway, but it remained rough and uneven. /gsg
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