NEAR RIDGECREST (CBSLA) — A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the remote Kern County community of Searles Valley Thursday morning just as families were celebrating the Fourth of July.
The quake, which began at 10:33 a.m., was centered about 160 miles northeast of Los Angeles and near the Mojave Desert. There were no reports of serious injuries.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the quake's epicenter was 7.5 miles southwest of Searles Valley at a depth of 6.6 miles. The earthquake was initially given a magnitude of 6.6, but was later revised to a 6.4. It's the largest earthquake to hit the region since 1999.
Power was knocked out in Trona, a small town closest to the epicenter, located about 25 miles north of Ridgecrest. Residents across the town reported water main breaks and gas line breaks. Several homes and businesses were damaged. A highway outside Trona sustained severe damage.
"Man, it started shaking, the TV fell off of the wall," a man who lives in Trona told CBS2. "All three rooms of the house just caved in. It chucked our refrigerator all the way into the middle of the kitchen."
No serious injuries were reported.
The quake was preceded by two foreshocks: the first at 10:02 a.m. with a magnitude of 4.0, and the second seven minutes later, with a magnitude of 2.5. The 6.4 quake happened 24 minutes after that.
The big earthquake was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the Ridgecrest and Searles Valley areas, measuring anywhere from magnitude 2.9 to 4.2. In the first 90 minutes following the earthquake, there were six aftershocks with magnitudes above 4.0 and roughly 30 with magnitudes above 3.0, according to seismologists.
In total, according to the Southern California Seismic Network, by 3:15 p.m., more than 220 aftershocks were recorded. The largest was a magnitude 4.6. There were 12 with magnitudes above 4.0, 59 with recorded magnitudes above 3.0 and 162 with magnitudes above 2.0. More aftershocks are expected in the next few days.
The quake was felt as far south as Orange County and as far east as Las Vegas. In San Bernardino County, water main breaks, cracked buildings and downed power lines were reported, and a massive house fire was captured on cell phone video.
It wasn't clear which fault the quake struck on, but seismologists ruled out the infamous San Andreas fault.
"The earthquake is near China Lake and Ridgecrest, so the area to the east of the southernmost part of the San Andreas Fault...It is a sparsely inhabited area, so the number of people who would have received damage would be much lower," earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones said at a news conference at CalTech in Pasadena.
Kern County Fire Department officials said they responded to incidents ranging from gas leaks, medical issues and structure fires. About 15 patients were evacuated from Ridgecrest Regional Hospital after the building sustained structural damage.
"We were inundated with calls, with fires, stores that were shaking with stuff falling off the shelves," Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said at a news conference.
San Bernardino County Fire Department reported some damage to roads and buildings, but no injuries were immediately reported. Fire officials said buildings and roads "sustained varying degrees of damage."
There were minimal reports of damage in the L.A. area following the quake, including a water main break on Wilshire Boulevard and La Jolla Avenue, power outages affecting the Garment District downtown, a portion of San Pedro, and 20 customers in Granada Hills.
Officials later said the water main break might have been unrelated to the earthquake.
By early afternoon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city was "in great shape," with no significant damage to report.
According to Dr. Jones, Caltech received a 48-second warning that the quake was coming, she said at a news conference in Pasadena. However, users of the Shake Alert app did not receive an alert because the quake in L.A. measured only a 4.5, which is under the 5.0 threshold required for an alert.
Jones also noted a vigorous aftershock sequence was underway and that she wouldn't be surprised if a magnitude-5 quake occurred during the aftershocks.
"We should be expecting lots of aftershocks," she said.
L.A. International Airport reported no damage, with operations running normally. Los Angeles police said they had not received any reports of damage or calls for service within the city of L.A.
In Lancaster, one Twitter user reported people fleeing a movie theater.
"Felt like we were on a turntable," user Rudio87 wrote.
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