Many residents in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley felt windows and walls shaking a bit late Thursday morning, but it wasn’t from Fourth of July fireworks.
The region felt the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which struck at 10:33 a.m. near Ridgecrest, about 224 miles southeast of Fresno, according to the United States Geological Survey.
It was the strongest earthquake in 20 years that shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada.
People as far north as Sacramento and as far east as Las Vegas reported feeling the earthquake, which resulted in fires, broken gas lines and some damage in the Ridgecrest area.
Christopher Guevara, who works at Michel’s Smog Check in Fresno’s Tower District, was at his job when the quake hit. “All of a sudden I felt something move. Like I felt the window move, and I felt my chair move. I just got up, it kind of scared me,” he said.
Fresno resident Ed Danel said he was “kicking back on the couch” when he noticed the shaking.
“I looked over at some stained glass in the window, and it was rocking, and I thought ‘Oh, well maybe I should get under a doorway, but I should go tell my wife first.’”
Luis Rodriguez, who was in Fig Garden for a Fourth of July parade, said he heard someone say there was an earthquake. He saw a business sign moving back and forth. “That’s when we knew it was real,” he said.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office as of Thursday afternoon had not gotten reports of any damage or injuries. Residents in Coalinga, Hanford and Visalia also reported shaking.
Fresno hasn’t felt any serious effects from a major earthquake since a magnitude-6.4 temblor devastated Coalinga in 1983, injuring 47 people there and causing more than $31 million in damage.
Although Fresno residents felt Thursday’s quake, the city is relatively far from active faults and thus experiences less seismic shaking compared to other areas of the state.
“According to the U.S. Geological Survery and the California Geological Survey there are not known active faults underneath Fresno or anything like that, but we experience the shaking from earthquakes that occur on faults that are at a distance to us,” said Professor Christopher Pluhar of Fresno State’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
“If we estimate the shaking potential in Fresno, we are a low shaking potential area in general, compared to the rest of California,” Pluhar said.
Multiple injuries and two house fires were reported Ridgecrest, a the town of 28,000. Emergency crews were also dealing with small vegetation fires, gas leaks and reports of cracked roads, said Kern County Fire Chief David Witt.
He said 15 patients were evacuated from the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital as a precaution and out of concern for aftershocks.
A series of aftershocks included a 4.5 magnitude temblor, according to the United States Geological Survey.
“It almost gave me a heart attack,” said Cora Burke, a waitress at Midway Cafe in Ridgecrest, of the big jolt. “It’s just a rolling feeling inside the building, inside the cafe and all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf, glasses, the refrigerator and everything in the small refrigerator fell over.”
Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the California Institute of Technology’s seismology lab, said the earthquake was the strongest since a 7.1 quake struck in the area on October 16, 1999.
“This has been an extremely quiet abnormal time,” Jones said. “This type of earthquake is much more normal ... The long term average is probably once every five or 10 years somewhere in Southern California.”
Jones said that the 6.4 quake centered near the town of Ridgecrest was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 temblor about a half hour earlier.