6.9-magnitude earthquake felt in Southern California, could be largest in 20 years

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A preliminary 6.9 magnitude earthquake was felt across Southern California on Friday night, a day after a 6.4 magnitude temblor rattled Ridgecrest.

The quake at 8:19 p.m. PDT was centered 11 miles from Ridgecrest, a Mojave Desert town 150 miles away from Los Angeles that saw building damage, fires and several injuries from the earlier quake.

Kern County spokeswoman Megan Person said officials were responding to multiple reports of injuries and multiple reports of fires.

The Kern County Fire Department reported it was responding to at least two structure fires following the quake.

Power outages were reported in and around Ridgecrest and the nearby community of Trona was without power.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he activated the state’s emergency operations center to its highest level, and the state was coordinating mutual aid to first responders.

Officials in San Bernardino County reported homes shifting, foundation cracking and retaining walls coming down. One person suffered minor injuries and was being treated by firefighters, they said.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab, tweeted that the quake was part of the sequence that produced the earlier quake.

Jones warned in a news conference that she expects more earthquakes throughout the night.

“A magnitude 7 usually has aftershocks that last for years,” she said.”My expectation is that Ridgecrest is having a pretty difficult time. It is a foreshock, when an aftershock becomes bigger than a main shock we change the name to a foreshock.”

The quake was felt in downtown Los Angeles as a rolling motion that seemed to last at least a half-minute. It was felt as far away as Las Vegas, and the USGS says it also was felt in Mexico.

If the preliminary magnitude is correct, it would be the largest Southern California quake in 20 years

Three minutes before the 6.9 quake, a 5.0-magnitude quake was centered close by – 9 miles west-southwest of Searles Valley.

Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said that as of 8:45 p.m. Friday ino highway damage had been reported. “It’s too soon to tell,” she said, but crews are being sent out to survey the highways.

In the Yucca Valley area, Republican state Assemblyman Chad Mayes tweeted a photo of items on the floor of a Walmart store.

At the Dodgers home game against the Padres, the quake interrupted the bottom of the fourth inning. But they played on as if nothing was amiss.

While aftershocks rattled the region throughout the afternoon Thursday, the shaking widely reported across the Coachella Valley from the strongest quake in at least 20 years is likely the only effect on the low desert.

The two quakes are considered two of the most intense temblors to hit Southern California since 1994’s Northridge quake.

Kern County Fire Chief David Witt said emergency officials in Ridgecrest responded to at least two house fires after the Fourth of July quake, a small vegetation fire, downed power lines and gas leaks.

“There are more calls than we have people,” Witt said, adding that he expects local officials would get reinforcement. Minor injuries and some structural damage, including buildings with the glass blown out as well as downed grocery store shelves, were reported according to Witt.