Earthquakes Rock Californians as They Prepare for the Big One

Two of the biggest earthquakes to strike California in the last several decades have left residents determined to prepare for the big quake that scientists have predicted is imminent.

$16 million dollars have been allocated to fund earthquake sensors that will warn trains and utilities of an incoming quake with enough time for operators to power down and wait out the jolts.

The California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has encouraged residents to plan escape routes and have emergency earthquake kits prepared for when the “Big One” strikes.

A fireman wades through the wreckage of a home that caught fire during the July 6 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California. Photo Courtesy of AP and Marcio Jose Sanchez

“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” said Newsom at a Saturday news conference focused on efforts to aid areas worst hit by the two earthquakes.

Thursday saw a 6.4 magnitude earthquake followed by an earthquake of 7.1 magnitude on Friday. The vibrations were felt most strongly in a small town just 150 miles outside of Los Angeles called Ridgecrest.

Several houses caught fire in the town as gas lines split open from the jolts. Highways crumbled in some areas. Luckily no one was serious injured or killed by the quakes, as the town is remote and sparsely populated enough that a small number of people were affected.

“Any time that we can go through a 7-point earthquake and we do not report a fatality, a major injury, do not suffer structure damage that was significant, I want to say that that was a blessing and a miracle,” Kern County Fire Department spokesman Andrew Freeborn said Sunday to Associated Press reporters.

In a major city, seismologists hypothesize that a quake of a similar magnitude would have devastating effects. Bridges, highways, and buildings are at risk of collapse during earthquakes of magnitude 6 and higher.

“We’re going to have a magnitude 6, on average, somewhere in Southern California every few years. We’ve actually gone 20 years without one, so we have had the quietest 20 years in the history of Southern California,” said seismologist Lucy Jones of the California Institute of Technology in an interview with the Associated Press.

“That’s unlikely to continue on the long run,” she added. “Geology keeps on moving … and we should be expecting a higher rate. And when it happens near people, it is going to be a lot worse.”

As the “Big One” looms, residents are advised to pack non-perishable food and water, batteries and flashlights, and all other necessary items in case of an emergency. Develop and communicate an escape route to your family so that everyone is aware of what to do in the event of a major earthquake.