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ARES Responds to Early July Earthquakes and Aftershocks in Southern California

07/24/2019

On the morning of July 4, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the California High Desert, with its epicenter near Trona in the Searles Valley, not far from Ridgecrest, population roughly 29,000.

ARES volunteer Jerry Brooks, KK6PA, activated the Eastern Kern County ARES Net, and, as members assessed their own situations and were able to participate, activity grew on the Eastern Kern County ARES Emergency Net. Steve Hendricks, KK6JTB, took over net control duties through most of the first day, and others filled in as the activation progressed.

The Logistics Chief with the Ridgecrest Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Robert Oberfeld, contacted Eastern Kern County ARES to ask that a radio operator be assigned to the Ridgecrest Police Department mobile communications van at the EOC.

Eastern Kern County ARES was able to relay information from mobile operators to the EOC regarding roadway conditions in the area, as several main highways — including Highway 178, the only route between Ridgecrest and Trona — had been rendered impassable. CalTrans was alerted, and repair crews had the route opened for limited traffic within a short time.

As the aftershocks lessened and the extent of the damage by the first temblor had been assessed, the EOC requested that ARES stand down but remain on standby.

Everyone’s worst fears were realized the next day — Friday, July 5 — when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in the early evening. This was followed over the next 2 hours by 19 aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to 5.5. The epicenter of the 7.1 temblor was some 11 miles north of Ridgecrest in Indian Wells Valley, within the boundaries of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS).

When Eastern Kern County ARES reactivated, significantly more damage had occurred, with the result that fewer operators were immediately available as many residents dealt with serious issues within their own homes. Additional operators eventually become available to provide their observations to the EOC, however. With sufficient depth of resources, the communications van was now being staffed by two operators working in 4-hour shifts, some of them husband-and-wife teams. In all, 57 operators were active at various times on the emergency net, providing status and updates. Eastern Kern County ARES stood down from active status at 9 PM on Sunday.

“The ensuing days have brought thousands of aftershocks of generally small magnitude, but the threat of larger aftershocks remains, so Eastern Kern County ARES remains on stand by for now,” said Dennis Kidder, W6DQ. He said few injuries were reported as a result of the two earthquakes. “A number of homes were either destroyed or severely damaged, and a number of businesses sustained damage and some were red tagged. Some 150 residents are in shelter at this time,” Kidder added. Water service and electrical power have been restored to most areas.

Kidder said that while most of the thousands of aftershocks were inconsequential, several have been as high as magnitude 5.5, “which gets everyone’s attention.” Aftershocks are expected to continue for a long time, he said. — Thanks to Dennis Kidder, W6DQ, Eastern Kern County ARES



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