Southern California’s strongest earthquake in 20 years happened in a desert

A highway crack in Ridgecrest, California after the July 5 earthquake.
A highway crack in Ridgecrest, California after the July 5 earthquake.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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In a state where many people live in fear of “the Big One,” it could have been worse. Yesterday evening a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, the strongest to hit Southern California in 20 years, happened well away from major population centers.

The earthquake, hitting just after 8pm, was centered in the Mojave Desert, and followed a 6.4 quake that struck the same area the day before. In the nearby town of Ridgecrest, groceries tumbled off shelves and power went down. Also not far away, a weapons station for the US Navy evacuated non-essential personnel. Further afield, shaking was felt in Los Angeles, about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of the epicenter, as well as in Las Vegas and even Sacramento.

But near the epicenter there were no stadiums, skyscrapers, or subway systems, as there are in Los Angeles, where rattling could be felt at Dodger Stadium while the home team battled the San Diego Padres.

People took to Twitter to show the shaking in America’s second-largest city:

In the end, a sparsely populated desert area wasn’t a bad place for the earthquakes (further episodes are expected) to strike. The system of faults that created them appear to be only remotely connected to the San Andreas fault, which runs through most of California’s length (near heavily populated areas) and is associated with the eventual “Big One.”

For the moment, the region can breathe a sigh of relief.