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Largest Earthquake To Hit The State In 2 Decades Rattles Southern California


A 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook southern California today. It was centered in the Mojave Desert. Broken gas pipes started two house fires and authorities report other property damage, injuries and some cracked roads in Ridgecrest, the closest city. Emily Guerin of member station KPCC is in Ridgecrest now. She's been talking to people who experienced the quake. And, Emily, first of all, can you just tell us the situation?

EMILY GUERIN, BYLINE: Yeah. So since the quake this morning, there have been a lot of aftershocks. And actually, I've just been sitting in Ridgecrest City Hall trying to file stories, and there've probably been 10 at least since I've been sitting here. And some of them are really subtle. Like, you barely feel them. And some of them are strong enough to rattle glass, and so it's pretty unsettling.

CORNISH: One of the places that was most affected reportedly was Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. What happened there?

GUERIN: After the earthquake, the hospital administrator decided to evacuate all the patients as kind of a precautionary measure. There was some damage to the hospital. They had some water problems, a bunch of broken glass, a few people got injured, but it was pretty minor, like cuts and scrapes, nothing life-threatening. They set up a triage tent outside, though, so if people in the area were injured, they could still come and get treatment. And that's important because this area is really isolated. It's the Mojave Desert. Ridgecrest Hospital is the only big hospital for, you know, two hours in any direction. And the hospital administrator, James Suver, he was actually at home when the quake happened because it's the Fourth of July. And so he had to come back in. And he told me what he left behind at his house.

JAMES SUVER: My house is in shambles with china cabinets turned over, lamps all off, pictures done, the dogs were absolutely terrified.

CORNISH: And I understand you also, because it's the Fourth of July, spoke with a fireworks seller, and they were still in business.

GUERIN: Of course. Yes. I mean, Fourth of July - very popular in Southern California. And a lot of people here sell fireworks out of RVs and some of our ubiquitous strip malls. And this woman, Katrina Pearl (ph), had a big red-and-yellow fireworks sign outside of a Little Caesars pizza. So I went over and I talked to her. She was there with her family. And I asked her what it felt like when the quake hit.

KATRINA PEARL: The cars were all moving. The light poles were moving. The motor home was moving. Everything was just kind of shaking.

GUERIN: Now, her son Daniel (ph) was at home, and he told me what that was like. He said when the shaking started violently, his dad told him to get underneath the doorframe.

DANIEL: It felt like a minute of just sitting there waiting. And it's so scary because you can't do anything about it. You can't move. We had pictures all up against the walls, and they're all down.

GUERIN: By the way, in an earthquake, you're actually not supposed to get under the doorway. You're supposed to duck, cover, like - and go underneath something solid like a table and hold on.

CORNISH: You can hear and sense people's fear there. Did they still end up, I guess, doing business, selling fireworks?

GUERIN: So Katrina Pearl had pretty low expectations after the quake. She thought people would just be scared and not want to set off fireworks, but she was actually pleasantly surprised.

PEARL: Sales haven't stopped. We're still selling fireworks.

GUERIN: So people still want to blow stuff up even though they were in an earthquake.

PEARL: Yeah, it's California (laughter). We're used to it. It's all right.

GUERIN: Yeah. So for Katrina, I mean, it was not her first earthquake. So it was - she was, like, pretty nonchalant. But I think for some of the younger folks, it was the first time they'd ever experienced like this, so it was a little bit more frightening.

CORNISH: That's Emily Guerin of member station KPCC speaking to us from Ridgecrest, Calif. Thank you so much, Emily.

GUERIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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