7.1 Earthquake Rocks Southern California, Law Enforcement Issues Preparedness Warning

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Highway workers repair a hole that opened in the road as a result of the July 5 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California.

Following the latest tremblor that originated just 11 miles outside of Ridgecrest, Calif., the Los Angeles Police Department is encouraging everyone to have a plan ready in case there is something bigger.

An earthquake with a magnitude of up to 7.1 rocked Southern California on Friday night, the United States Geological Survey reported. The USGS then reported a subsequent earthquake of 5.5 just 20 minutes later, followed by another 5.5 quake about an hour after.

The 7.1 earthquake, the largest in 20 years, again originated near Ridgecrest, Calif., which was the site of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday. At least 1,700 aftershocks have been recorded since. The first 5.5 quake was closer to Little Lake, Calif., the USGS said. The 7.1 quake could be felt as far north as Sacramento, east as Las Vegas and south as Mexico.

Although there were no fatalities or major injuries reported in Ridgecrest or elsewhere, the earthquake caused multiple power outages and minor gas leaks. Photos posted on social media by the state highway department show numerous cracks in the road. 

The small town of Trona was hit particularly hard by the earthquake, with structural damage including the collapse of walls and chimneys in residential homes. Due to rockslides and road cracks, the town was temporarily inaccessible and the only food store has been shuttered. 

In downtown Los Angeles, 150 miles away, offices in skyscrapers rolled and rocked for at least 30 seconds. The Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department advised the public not to call 911 unless there was a true emergency in the immediate aftermath of the event; later, the chief of LAFD tweeted, "Your @LAFD is no longer in Earthquake Mode after a Citywide survey determined no injuries or significant damage."

Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the state Office of Emergency Services operations center "to its highest level" and announced he had requested President Donald Trump issue an emergency declaration so the state could receive federal aid. "The state is coordinating mutual aid to local first responders," he said.

Newsom's declaration of a state of emergency provides immediate state assistance to San Bernardino County, citing conditions of "extreme peril to the safety of persons or property" due to the earthquake.

Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology and a former science adviser at the Geological Survey, tweeted that Thursday's earthquake was a "foreshock" and that Friday's quake was on the same fault system as the earlier quake. "You know we say we have a 1 in 20 chance that an earthquake will be followed by something bigger? This is that 1 in 20 time," she tweeted.

The LAPD tweeted a warning in response: "1 in 20 chance of something bigger? Don't take this lightly. Be prepared. Talk to your loved ones. Have a plan."

According to a tweet from the USGS, "the chance of an earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is 5 percent, such an earthquake is possible but with low probability."  

Earlier Friday, Los Angeles had revealed plans to lower slightly the threshold for public alerts from its earthquake early warning app. But officials said the change was in the works before the Thursday quake, which gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology's seismology lab 48 seconds of warning but did not trigger a public notification.

California is partnering with the federal government to build the statewide earthquake warning system, with the goal of turning it on by June 2021. The state has already spent at least $25 million building it, including installing hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state.

This year, Newsom said the state needed $16.3 million to finish the project, which included money for stations to monitor seismic activity, plus nearly $7 million for "outreach and education." The state Legislature approved the funding last month, and Newsom signed it into law.

In L.A., Dodger Stadium was swaying for 30 seconds during the Friday earthquake — the Dodgers, currently playing a game, never stopped during the shaking, which was caught on camera. Meanwhile, Disneyland evacuated rides while the park conducted safety checks. The Disneyland Mobile App marked all rides as "temporarily closed" Friday night. By Saturday morning, the app indicated that rides had reopened and wait times were listed. 

Six Flags Magic Mountain also reported that it had evacuated all its rides and was conducting safety checks following the earthquake. "The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority and as a precautionary measure, we are conducting an extensive visual, structural, and operational safety checks on all of the rides before re-opening," it said in a tweet. By Saturday morning, the park had resumed regular operations. 

Visitors at Knott's Berry Farm also reported that rides had been shut down following the earthquake. The park had also resumed regular operating hours by Saturday.

L.A.'s transit options were affected Friday night by the quake, with Metrolink reporting that it had stopped service in the wake of the earthquake. Late in the evening, Metrolink tweeted that it was undergoing "precautionary track inspections" due to the recent earthquake.

After LAX said that airport officials were checking terminals and surrounding areas for injuries, they tweeted Saturday, "Crews have completed their assessment of the airfield and terminals with no damage reported."

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt reported that he was in a movie theater in L.A. that was evacuated following the quake. "In L.A. and just evacuated a movie theater as another quake struck. Bigger than yesterday’s," he said.

Later on, he updated his situation and said, "Everyone remained calm as the theater began to shake and then the shaking got stronger. We all headed to exits and down the stairs. No panic but one woman was sobbing. This one was scary." Holt also tweeted a video from outside the movie theater in Santa Monica, reporting no damage or injuries, just "rattled nerves."

July 6, 7:25 a.m.: Updated with details from LAPD, Metrolink, LAX, Disneyland, Six Flags, Knott's Berry Farm and AP.