– Williams Shekinah, ABH PressThe strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years rocked the state on Thursday, leaving residents from Las Vegas to Orange County in shock and horror.
The quake, with a magnitude of 6.4, was centered near Ridgecrest, a community west of the Mojave Desert and about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.
At least 159 aftershocks of magnitude 2.5 or greater were recorded after the earthquake, according to United States Geological Society, USGS Seismologist Robert Graves. It is a higher than normal number, but not unprecedented, he said. The largest of them were magnitude 4.6.
Noted seismologist Lucy Jones said there is a 1 in 20 chance that a bigger earthquake will hit within the next few days. “It’s certain that this area is going to be shaking a lot today and some of those aftershocks will probably exceed magnitude 5.”
Jones said the quake, named the Searles Valley Quake, was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 foreshock.
The quake prompted Ridgecrest mayor, Peggy Breeden to announce a state of emergency.
Footage from Ridgecrest showed firefighters hosing down flames rising from homes.
There were also power outages in the city of 28,000 residents. The forecasted high temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service said.
In Kern County, at the epicenter, the Fire Department responded to more than 20 incidents relating to the earthquake and aftershocks, including fires and medical emergencies, according to a tweet on its verified account.
Ridgecrest Regional Hospital was evacuated. About 15 patients from the emergency room were taken to another hospital, and inspectors were going through the facility to determine whether it was safe to bring the other patients in from the tented areas outside.
65 children performing on stage at a were startled when the earthquake skook the building. A wall collapsed shortly after they were evacuated.
The rolling ground also caused Disneyland officials to temporarily shut down rides.
The National Weather Service tweeted that the earthquake was also felt in Las Vegas.
It was the largest quake to hit Southern California since 1999, when a 7.1 earthquake struck in a remote part of the Mojave desert.
In 1994, at least 57 people died when a 6.7 earthquake hit the Northridge neighborhood of Los Angeles, causing $25 billion in damage.

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