News/Politics

Earth is still rumbling, but worst should be over for California quakes

RIDGECREST, Calif. – The Mojave Desert shuddered and rumbled for a fourth day Sunday, but experts tried to ease fears that another massive aftershock or quake would soon slam the battered communities in south-central California.

California Institute of Technology seismologist Lucy Jones said thousands of magnitude 1 or more aftershocks have been detected in the Searles Valley “sequence” highlighted by Friday’s magnitude 7.1 and Thursday’s 6.4 – technically a mighty “foreshock.” Jones said there was little chance that Searles Valley would be rocked by something that strong in coming days.

“The potential for increased weather disasters coming with climate change make the earthquake problem look small,” Jones said on Twitter.

The area, 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, was in recovery mode after the quakes crumbled buildings, ignited fires and cut power to thousands of homes and businesses.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said no damage was found on sidewalks. The water treatment plant is “fully operational,” he said, and the city has water. Teams scoured the city’s schools Sunday to check for damage.

“All the roads are in good condition,“ McLaughlin said.

Ridgecrest Hospital was damaged, but officials hoped to reopen this week. The hospital was evacuated Thursday; Sunday, it took only “walk-in emergencies.”

Assistance centers were set up to provide assistance for locals on how to navigate financial recovery, educating residents on what kind of assistance they might qualify for even without insurance.

The quakes occurred along a series of small faults unrelated to the San Andreas Fault, a 750-mile fault line running almost the length of California. They were the strongest to hit the state in two decades.

No deaths or serious injuries have been reported. California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that local governments must strengthen alert systems and building codes, and residents should redouble preparedness efforts.

“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation,” Newsom said.

Newsom toured the hardest-hit areas over the weekend. The estimated $100 million in damage would have been much higher had the epicenter been in an area such as Los Angeles, rather than the remote Ridgecrest area, he said.

“This is a socioeconomic issue,” Newsom said late Saturday after touring the city of about 28,000. “In the mobile home park … people don’t have a place to go once they have been red-tagged.”

Newsom said much of the foundation cracks and other damage can’t be seen by walking down the street, only by walking through people’s homes. He said many in the community are without earthquake insurance because it’s too expensive.

Recovering from foundation damage to a home or even broken windows or appliances is a costly financial burden for individuals and small businesses, he said.

“The world doesn’t notice the real damage until you open that door,” Newsom said. “It’s behind the door, inside the homes, inside the stores.”

Newsom, a Democrat often at odds with President Donald Trump, said Trump pledged federal support.

“He’s committed in the long haul to help support the rebuilding efforts,” he said.

USA TODAY

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