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Ridgecrest

California Department of Conservation

When people think about California earthquakes, what likely comes to mind is the San Andreas Fault. But most of the state is not near the San Andreas, and yet there are still plenty of opportunities for seismicity.

The two damaging earthquakes that shook the Ridgecrest-Trona area over Independence Day weekend may have taken locals by surprise, but the same may not be said for geologists.

U.S. Geological Survey

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.

U.S. Geological Survey

When the first big earthquake hit, a magnitude-6.4 on Thursday morning, Ridgecrest resident Heather Martin said so many of her belongings fell in front of her bedroom door that all she could do was crouch in a corner and wait for the shaking to stop.

When the magnitude-7.1 quake struck the next night, Martin knew she had to get out of her apartment. Each doorway was another hurdle to pass through. “My back slammed into the doorframe,” she says, as she passed the bathroom, “and I had such an adrenaline rush at that point that I didn’t even realize I had hurt my back.”