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Ridgecrest Residents Prepare For More After Earthquakes


Southern California is continuing to shake. More than 3,000 earthquakes have hit the region in the last few days. The largest, a massive one at 7.1 magnitude, on Friday night, rolled through Los Angeles, disrupted a poker tournament in Las Vegas and shook residents as far away as Phoenix. It was the largest earthquake to hit the region in decades. And seismologists warn that more could be on the way. NPR's Nathan Rott is near the epicenter of that large quake in Ridgecrest, Calif. And he joins us now.


NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I really do have a hard time imagining what more than 3,000 earthquakes even feels like.

ROTT: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is it just nonstop?

ROTT: You know, it felt like that for a bit last night. There was a lot of shaking while I was trying to go to bed. But, no, it's not nonstop. You know, there are pauses or lulls. And it's funny because I asked that same question to the very first person I talked to when I got to town yesterday. Her name was Krystal McFadden, and here's how she describes it.

KRYSTAL MCFADDEN: It's been like an overload of roller coasters (laughter).

ROTT: And are you a roller coaster fan?

MCFADDEN: I was. Not now, I don't think so.

ROTT: So if you couldn't tell from her voice there, she is over it, and a lot of people here are. A smaller earthquake hit here last night while I was out eating dinner. It rattled these glasses above the bar, and the bartender was like, OK, I'm out. I got to go outside. You know, these smaller quakes are reminders of that big one, and that big one really scared a lot of people here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I mean, what are people telling you about that quake? A 7.1 magnitude earthquake is really, really big.

ROTT: Yeah, it's huge. And, you know, bear in mind; it was the second big earthquake to hit here. A 6.4 earthquake hit on the same fault on July Fourth - Independence Day. And that was the biggest to hit the area in about 20 years, so folks were already on edge. And then that big one - 11 times stronger - struck. And in some ways that was good. You know, people were better prepared. But I've heard of others who got thrown out of their beds, people who were working and tried to calm customers or their kids, you know, others who felt like they just froze. I was more than a hundred yards - or a hundred miles away in Los Angeles and felt it there, so I can't imagine what it would have been like here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So now that you've been around this area, what has the damage to the area been like? What have you seen?

ROTT: So to me, that is the most surprising part. You know, Ridgecrest is about 10 miles from the epicenter, and there really hasn't been as much damage as you might expect. Some trailers were thrown off their bases. There were a few structure fires from broken gas pipes. Some highways were fractured or buckled, most of which have already been repaired. You know, the state and federal government have promised to help. They signed off on emergency declarations in the last day, which should really help get, you know, inspections and repairs done more quickly. But overall, when you look at the scale of this incident and then you compare that to the damage, it's a little surprising. And that's something I've heard from a lot of people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what should people take from that? The U.S. Geological Survey is warning that more earthquakes are likely in the coming days and weeks.

ROTT: You know, so I haven't been to the grocery stores and seen the lines of people getting water, canned goods, batteries. I can tell you that people here are definitely preparing like maybe they weren't before. And I think that there's a hope that the same is true for the millions of people not far south from here in LA, who live on top of fault lines. I talked about that with Jonathan Stewart, a professor of civil engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles yesterday. And I asked him if this earthquake, you know, bad as it is for some, could be a blessing in disguise.

JONATHAN STEWART: So to the extent that this event could wake us out of our slumber - let's realize, hey. We're living in Southern California. This is a very risky place for earthquakes. It's hard to find any more risky place in the world. Maybe we better prepare. If it helps us to do that, then it is a blessing in disguise.

ROTT: Because it's not a matter of if but when another big earthquake is coming here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed. That's NPR's Nathan Rott in Ridgecrest, Calif.

Thank you so much.

ROTT: Yeah. Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.