USGS notes potential for more quakes; Newsom declares state of emergency

A map of California, with a star signifying the epicenter of the July 5 earthquake near Ridgecrest. Courtesy of United States Geological Survey

Ed. Note: Ryan Mancini contributed to this report.

Following two earthquakes and a series of aftershocks since July 4, the United States Geological Survey warned California residents about the chances for more earthquakes in the days to come. 

In their aftershocks forecast, the USGS concluded that within the next week there is a 99% chance of a magnitude 3 or higher earthquake occurring, a 56% chance of an earthquake that’s a magnitude 5 or higher and an 8% chance of another magnitude 6 or higher earthquake. 

“According to our forecast, over the next one week there is a less than 1% chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 7.1,” read the USGS’ forecast based on data updated at 9:16 a.m. Monday. 

Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones wrote in a tweet on Saturday that more than 3,000 earthquakes were recorded in Searles Valley, which is approximately 25 miles northeast of Ridgecrest. 

She went on to explain in another tweet that the sequence is decaying, meaning probabilities of more aftershocks are dropping.

“In the next week, (magnitude) 4s are still certain, a couple of (magnitude) 5s are likely, but larger quakes are looking more improbable,” her tweet read.

Supervisor Melanie Flores with the Los Angeles County Fire Department said no further information regarding the Santa Clarita Valley and L.A. County related to the earthquake was submitted to her or other fire officials. 

Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said deputies monitored critical areas across Santa Clarita, inspecting for signs of earthquake-related damage. 

Deputies partnered with Six Flags Magic Mountain to inspect the park’s rides before normal operations resumed, she said. 

“Thankfully there was nothing (damaged) here locally as a result of the earthquake,” Miller said. “(It) just shook citizens up and it’s a somber reminder we’re in earthquake country.” 

Though reports of injuries and damage to homes and other buildings came out of San Bernardino County and Kern County after the quakes. 

“The damage to many local businesses has been significant between the two major earthquakes in the past days. Damage assessments will be ongoing,” read a tweet posted by  the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services on Sunday.

The Kern County Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol Bakersfield division notified drivers about a closure of State Route 178, which buckled and sustained major damage due to falling rocks Friday, and though the highway was reopened in both directions early Saturday morning, the damage remains significant. 

“Caltrans and crews are making significant progress on repairs to this highway,” said Shawn Boyd, public information officer with Cal OES in a Facebook live stream Monday morning. “They are moving very quickly, working feverishly to get more than just the one highway lane open. In fact, it’s really not even a full lane, they’re more like driving on the side of the highway, being escorted back and forth between the two checkpoints on either end of this construction project … If you are going to be traveling this highway there are going to be delays.” 

Sgt. Scott Shoemaker, head of the SCV Sheriff’s Station’s Traffic Section, advised drivers what they should do in case of an earthquake. 

“Stay calm and pull your car over in an area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses and power lines,” he said. “Put on your parking brake so (the) vehicle won’t move and stay inside.”

By Saturday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County. The 7.1 quake on Friday “(caused) widespread and significant damage to critical infrastructure, including roads, water lines and gas lines, resulting in multiple structure fires…” according to his emergency proclamation. 

Newsom arrived near Ridgecrest and Kern County to assess damage and meet with local responders, leaders and business owners. 

The governor also requested a presidential emergency declaration from President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Newsom said he spoke with the president about the quakes over the phone prior to a Saturday afternoon press conference.

Trump confirmed this with a tweet Monday afternoon, which read, “Spoke to (Rep.) Kevin McCarthy about the earthquakes in California and informed him that we will be working very closely on emergency funding. Also spoke to Gov. Gavin Newsom — all working together.” 

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