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Eastern Sierra Earthquake Sent Massive Boulders Crashing Onto Mount Whitney Hiking Trails

LONE PINE (CBS SF) -- More than a dozen aftershocks to continued to ramble through the eastern Sierra near Mount Whitney Thursday, forcing rangers to delay searching for possible victims and assessing the damage done to several popular hiking trails by a 5.8 earthquake that rocked the region.

The initial quake struck at 10:40 a.m. in a rural area of the Owens Valley Fault System, which is known to occasionally produce big quakes, near the town of Lone Pine -- about 45 miles east of Mount Whitney.

While it caused little damage to structures in the rural region, the quake did rock the Whitney Portal campground area. It has been followed by more than two dozen aftershocks over the last 24 hours ranging in magnitude from 4.6 to 2.5.

The aftershocks delayed efforts to search for possible victims Thursday morning. Rangers said no one has been reported missing but the area is extremely popular with hikers. There were 40 vehicles in the parking area near the Whitney Portal campgrounds at the time of the quake.

"After an evaluation by a U.S. Forest Service geologist this morning, the intention is to send in search and rescue teams and canines to check each of the debris fields," according to a release by the Inyo County Sheriff's Department.

Search and rescue teams would focus on several areas of park.

"Aerial reconnaissance, as well as reports from hikers identified several additional slides," the sheriff department said. "One directly above Lone Pine Lake, one about a quarter of a mile above Long Pine Lake near the main trail and there were three slides on Mt. Whitney...It is unclear if the Mt. Whitney Trail has been damaged."

Inyo County deputies did evacuate the popular Whitney Portal campground after the quake. Deputies also posted on social media that Horseshoe Meadows Road was closed due to rocks and debris.

The Whitney Portal is the gateway to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States and is the trailhead for the Mount Whitney Trail.

The quake was felt as far away as Bakersfield, Stockton and throughout the Central Valley. The area is located between Sequoia National Park and Death Valley National Park.

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