The small community of Trona, California appears to have been particularly hard hit by the July 5, 2019 earthquake, but authorities said in a midnight press conference that they weren’t sure how bad it is because of the cover of darkness.
When morning came, authorities said there were four medical calls for minor injuries, and rumors the town was evacuated were not true. But there was no running water or electricity in Trona on Saturday morning, according to The Los Angeles Times. Homes did suffer some damage, although how many was still not clear.
Kern County Fire Chief David Witt reported that there were, thankfully, no deaths, major injuries or major collapses of buildings in Trona or Ridgecrest, the two hardest hit areas. Witt said there is damage, but authorities were still assessing the degree of it.
Photos showed the after effects of the quake in Trona.
Authorities stressed that the tiny community in San Bernardino County, as with Ridgecrest in nearby Kern County, is very “remote.” The Los Angeles Times reported that the community of Trona was initially inaccessible due to rockslides with some houses knocked off their foundations and that the community needs water.
People took to Twitter to share information – and fear. (Be forewarned that some of the language in tweets is strong.)
The magnitude 7.1 earthquake battered Southern California on July 5, 2019, following on the heels of a slightly smaller Fourth of July quake. The quake was felt as far away as Los Angeles but appears to, again, be near the community of Ridgecrest, CA. There was then a 5.5 magnitude aftershock.
The July 4 quake was already the largest in nearly 20 years, before it was bested by the one on July 5. “They’re saying the ground split,” said Winter Wilson, who was driving home to Trona from Bakersfield, to the Los Angeles Times. “They made me promise not to come.”
Throughout California, people expressed fear that more was to come. One man wrote on Twitter, “Literally praying every single second…Every earthquake is giving my (sic) minor panic attacks. I’ve never felt anything like the 7.1 in my life. I was in Walmart and it was lowkey chaos. I came back to trona ASAP once everyone was out of the building.”
He added: “These after shocks are no joke. Makes me so upset to see people outside of RC and Trona talking like they actually felt something. We feel earthquakes literally every 10 mins or less. The amount of stress is actually incomparable to anyone outside of these towns IMO.” In a tweet to Heavy, he said that he was in Trona.
Here’s what you need to know:
Officials Said Darkness Was Preventing Them From Surveying the Full Extent of Injuries & Damage
Authorities said in the midnight news conference that the extent of damages was not immediately clear because of the darkness and remoteness of the community. Even helicopters didn’t provide a full picture at first. According to the Times, about a dozen people slept in their cars because they were worried about aftershocks.
Trona was in need to bottled water when morning came.
Photos did show structure damage.
Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), said in a midnight press conference that the governor had asked the president for an emergency declaration. He said a number of injuries were reported, but he said he did not know the number yet. There were no fatalities reported yet, but authorities are not sure yet whether there were any. He said a “strike team of ambulances” was dispatched, in part because of falling debris.
According to Ghilarducci, the large quake of July 5 did “last for some time. It was felt widely throughout most of Southern California… the shaking intensity was very significant…it was at its highest level in and around China Lake and just adjacent to the town of Ridgecrest. We have significant reports of structural fires, mostly as a result of gas leaks or line breaks throughout the city. There are also reports of water main breaks. Power is out. Communications are out to parts of the community…as well, in the town of Trona.”
He described Trona as a “small community of about 2,000; there are reports of building collapses and power outages and gas leaks there as well.”
Ghilarducci said over 100 mutual aid personnel were dispatched in support. Trona and Ridgecrest are both very remotely located, he said, on the eastern side of the Sierra. “The roads have been impacted,” he said. “Getting resources into the area continues to be a challenge.”
Ironically, because of the earlier earthquake, a number of resources were already deployed to the area, which is useful, officials said.
Major priorities are for “medical support, firefighting and emergency power,” he said, adding that the quake happened around 8:20 p.m. “As the day breaks, we will be able to get a better assessment of the total amount of damage,” he said.
The Deputy Commissioner of the Highway Patrol said in the news conference that there were road closures, and they are checking the structural integrity of overpasses and the like. “The calls for service have dropped considerably,” he said around midnight. “When daylight comes, we will have a much better idea of what is needed.”
Major General David Baldwin, of the California National Guard, said that the military was mobilizing. There would be 200 sustainment troops and aviation assets, he said. “We’ve also alerted the remainder of the California military department… in the event that additional resources are required.” He said he’d also spoken with the Pentagon in case more help is needed.
CalFire officials said that CalFire is prepared to respond with any of the state’s resources that might be needed.
Earlier in the evening, Kern County fire officials said in another news conference that they had they had no reports of major gas leaks but 1,800 people were without power. They said Highway 178 through the canyon is closed. “We have a lot of people who are here to help, and we’re taking action,” said Kern County California Fire Chief David Witt.
Authorities were doing a “systematic search of Ridgecrest for life and property,” Witt said, adding that they were fielding a lot of medical aid calls from that community. He said officials knew of no fatalities at this time. He did not give an estimate of injuries on the evening of July 5. “We are launching a lot of people,” Witt said. “We have a strike team of engines.”
Witt said there were many concerns – a dam, the potential for buildings collapsed, and the possibility of people trapped. But he said they had no reports at the moment of major building collapses. “The first part is finding where those buildings are…there are so many calls for help that we have a backlog of calls in the Ridgecrest area,” Witt added.
Asked about his reaction to another quake, Witt said: “Feeling the earth move…we found out it was a 7.1 one. Realizing that was more significant than the one that was previous, we started launching a lot of equipment, even though we don’t know how much damage there is.”
The effects of the quake were captured on live TV:
The center of the first quake was near Searles Valley in San Bernardino County. That time, there were reports of people needing medical assistance and of damaged roadways and buildings. In Ridgecrest, in Kern County, CA, there were five fires and other damages, the mayor told CNN. On July 5, there were already reports of rockslides and structure fires. According to the Weather Channel, “The quake on Friday evening released at least 10 times more energy than its foreshock.”
CNN reported that “multiple fires and injuries” were occurring in Ridgecrest, and videos showed blazes. One person wrote on Twitter: “I have family in Ridgecrest. My cousins house may fall down so they’re outside. I also have family in Palmdale. Depending on where you are prepare yourself for evacuation. Better to be ready and not need it than be evacuated without your needs.”
The new earthquake is not an after shock, according to a prominent seismologist. In fact, she says that the earlier quake was a FORESHOCK of the one on July 5. The seismologist, Dr. Lucy Jones, wrote on Twitter: “So the M6.4 was a foreshock. This was a M7.1 on the same fault as has been producing the Searles Valley sequence. This is part of the same sequence.”
Jones told the LA Times: “The fault is growing. We ruptured a piece in the first earthquake, we ruptured a piece in the 5.4…and we’ve ruptured more now.”
The site Next California Earthquake wrote on Facebook, “RESIDENTS ARE FLEEING THE TOWN OF TRONA – HUGE BACKLOG OF CARS TRYING TO LEAVE.”