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Rocking, Shaking, Sloshing: How Californians Outside Ridgecrest Experienced The Big Quakes

U.S. Geological Survey
The U.S. Geological Survey received a combined 93,000 "Felt Reports" from people who felt the two biggest earthquakes that occurred in the Ridgecrest-Trona area last week. This map shows the locations of the reports following the biggest quake on July 5.

Two high-intensity earthquakes and hundreds of smaller tremors have rocked Mojave Desert communities since the Fourth of July, causing damage to buildings and roadways and forcing some residents into emergency shelters, but residents outside the area including across California and even as far as Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Arizona reported some shaking.

Kelly Miller was visiting Fresno from Las Vegas on Friday night when the magnitude-7.1 quake struck. She and her father were walking in a grocery store parking lot. At first she says her father didn’t believe her when she said she felt the ground shaking, until she noticed the cars all around her rocking. “It went on forever,” she said. “It could have been a good minute or more.”

On Twitter, noted Caltech geologist Lucy Jones estimated the largest quake lasted closer to 15 seconds, though she acknowledged that the shockwaves can echo and bounce after the fact.

Across the city, Derek Liu had been lying on his couch after a day of unpacking when he felt his new home begin to rumble. “I just felt dizzy, and then I heard things moving and I was like, ‘whoa, is this an earthquake?’ And I called family and they were like, ‘yeah, I felt it too,’” he said. “I was shaken a little bit, but it was more exciting, I would say, because we don’t get much action out here.”

Throughout the weekend, social media users in the Ridgecrest area and beyond posted photos and videos of homes and businesses shaking, swimming pools sloshing, and fissures that split open roadways and desert soil along one of the faults that ruptured.

Over the next week, the USGS estimates the Ridgecrest-Trona area will likely continue rumbling with dozens to hundreds of small tremors, some of which will be strong enough to be felt. The chance of another magnitude-7 quake is less than 1 percent.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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