LOS ANGELES – A magnitude 6.4 earthquake was felt in the Mojave Desert Thursday, shaking up local residents celebrating the Fourth of July.
The quake, which began at 10:33 a.m. Thursday, July 4,was centered about 7 miles southwest of Searles Valley, a sparsely populated part of the Mojave Desert near Kern County and northwestern San Bernardino County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Kern County Fire Department announced that it was responding to nearly two dozen incidents ranging from medical assistance to structure fires in and around the city of Ridgecrest, a town of about 28,000 people. The Los Angeles County Fire Department sent a battalion chief and a task force to Ridgecrest to assist the Kern County Fire Department in earthquake recovery efforts.
A state of emergency was later declared in Ridgecrest and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and 15 emergency-room patients were transferred to Palmdale Regional Medical Center while Ridgecrest Regional Hospital was being evaluated for structural damage.
Law enforcement agencies reminded the public not to use 911 for earthquake questions unless they had injuries or dangerous conditions to report.
A photo made the rounds on Twitter showing a large crack on Highway 178 near the small town of Trona. Caltrans officials reported Thursday afternoon that the crack “was repaired within one hour by Caltrans District 9 Maintenance crews.”
It was the strongest quake to be felt in Southern California since 1999, according to seismologist Lucy Jones of Caltech, founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science & Society.
Jones said the quake was not on the San Andreas fault.
“It is an area with a lot of little faults but no long fault,” she tweeted.
A magnitude 4.2 quake that preceded the main quake by about 30 minutes was a “foreshock,” Jones said.
The last Southern California earthquake to exceed 6.4 was on Oct. 16, 1999, when a magnitude 7.1 quake struck in the Mojave Desert near Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base. That quake knocked an Amtrak passenger train off its tracks and damaged two highway bridges.