Recent California earthquakes a stark warning for Los Angeles

Earthquakes a warning sign for L.A.

"CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell" debuts July 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET.


Ridgecrest, Calif. — California's governor said last week's back-to-back earthquakes caused at least $100 million dollars in damage. According to scientists, the magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 quakes are a wake-up call to a region that's overdue for the "big one."

In the quake-stricken town of Trona, Benny and Anna Sue Eldridge are loading up a lifetime of memories and saying goodbye to their now uninhabitable home that has been in the family for nearly 60 years.

The two quakes have left a trail of debris in Trona and nearby Ridgecrest. They've also shaken residents to the core.

"PTSD is a real thing. Many of you are suffering from it right now," said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin.

With at least 4,000 aftershocks so far, some residents are too terrified to sleep indoors.

"It's like you're gonna fall on the ground. It's like it's gonna crack open and you're gonna fall," said resident Michelle Ceazares.

What seismologists are learning from this weekend's California earthquakes

But near the epicenter, even the outdoors has its risks. So much energy was released by the 7.1 magnitude quake, that it caused a crack in the ground and the earth actually sunk down.

What has California officials so concerned is what would happen if that same magnitude earthquake struck directly under Los Angeles.

"We have a lot of buildings in the Los Angeles area that were built before we had any seismic building codes. Buildings, especially built before the 1976 code are the ones that we're most concerned about," said seismologist Lucy Jones.

Jones estimates a similar quake in Los Angeles could cause $200 billion in damage. That means an entire region is facing what the Eldridge family is already dealing with.

"We don't know where we're gonna live. If there's any federal help, we have heard nothing," said Anna Sue Eldridge.

The community is fortunate there were no serious injuries or deaths. But without federal aid, some people are stuck financially. Only 13 percent of California residents have earthquake insurance.