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Reports From On The Scene Of California's Latest Earthquake


The community of Ridgecrest, Calif., is getting a clearer view of the damage caused by last night's 7.1 magnitude earthquake. There are reports of power outages, fires and some injuries in the area about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Sharon McNary of member station KPCC is in Ridgecrest and joins us now. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: And you just arrived a few hours ago. Tell us what you're seeing.

MCNARY: You know, I've been driving through town. I've been seeing lots and lots of chairs in front of houses, even some tents with mattresses inside them that people drug out of the house to give us a sense of greater safety. You don't see a lot of external damage to houses just from what I've seen driving around. But at the fire station, of course, all the fire engines and vehicles have been pulled out of the fire station. And it was a good thing because there's still a lot of aftershocks. I was sitting in my car during a sizable one.

And when I first rolled into Ridgecrest, I stopped at a gas station, and the pumps were almost all occupied with people filling up their gas tanks, possibly for a long drive to another place to stay or just to keep their vehicles filled up while they run around doing post-emergency chores, which, you know, there's going to be a lot of them. But inside a convenience store at a gas station, the typical thing you see - bottles everywhere. You could smell the wine just wafting out the front door. And the earthquake actually knocked a toilet off its bolts. So that was unusable for customers.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, people in Ridgecrest and all the surrounding area must be on edge because of that 6.4 magnitude earthquake on the Fourth of July. But how is this stronger quake affecting the people you've been talking to? This is a one-two punch for them.

MCNARY: Well, it's almost like a two-one punch because the bigger one followed what they thought was the big one.

MONTAGNE: Right, right.

MCNARY: I spoke to one woman named Shawny French (ph). She and her daughter slept outside in their front lawn in a tent overnight. They'd lost power for a couple of hours after the July Fourth earthquake. And that was a 6.4. But last night, the 7.1, their power went off briefly, and then it came back quickly. It also restored her Internet, which was actually the only good news she's had. I asked her what she needed, and here's what she said.

SHAWNY FRENCH: I need it to stop. I need it to stop. I'm too old for this.

MONTAGNE: Whoa. Yeah. Having been in earthquakes, you do want it to stop after about a bunch of post-earthquakes, little tremors. So what there about emergency services? What's been set up so far?

MCNARY: Well, in a situation like a 7.1 earthquake, we'll see assistance coming from all over the state, maybe even beyond. There are specialized units, like the urban search and rescue team. I went inside the trailer that the Los Angeles Fire Department brought out, and they have tools for freeing people from cars, from buildings. They can cut through steel with an oxygen torch or through concrete with heavy saws. So far, though, none of that has been needed. The housing stock here dates from World War II and after, so it's got pretty good building standards. So it's - this city's been less vulnerable to earthquake damage than what you might find in an older city.

MONTAGNE: That's Sharon McNary of KPCC talking to us from Ridgecrest, Calif., which is near the epicenter of last night's big quake. Thanks very much.

MCNARY: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.