Trona Still Shaky After Initial 6.4 Followed By 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake

The community of Trona, at San Bernardino County’s extreme northwest corner, has been hard hit by a series of seismic disturbances this and last week.
While most, though not all
, vital services had been reestablished in the area by this morning, the true extent of damage to the town’s structures and their foundations and their underlying infrastructure is not wholly known at this point. Based on initial surveys of the damage, as many as 20 percent of the homes may have been rendered uninhabitable because their structural integrity may have been compromised such that they are prone to eventual collapse.
On July 4 at 10:33 a.m., approximately 11.2 miles east northeast of Ridgecrest and 8.1 miles west southwest of Trona on a northeast-southwest trending fault where it intercepts the northwest-southeast trending Airport Lake Fault Zone a 6.4 Richter Scale magnitude temblor occurred. This quake was preceded by several smaller barely humanly perceptible earthquakes, and was followed by more than 1,400 instrument-detected aftershocks. There followed a magnitude 5.4 earthquake on July 5 at 4:08 a.m. and at 8:19 p.m that evening a magnitude 7.1 quake, which is now considered the mainshock. In lower San Bernardino County it was felt as a sustained and rolling event of more than ten seconds duration. It was the most powerful earthquake to occur in California in 20 years. Subsequent aftershocks of magnitudes of 4.6, 5.0, 5,4, 5.0, 4.7, 4.5, 5.5, 4.9, 4.8, 5.4 and 4.9 occurred over the next one hour and 17 minutes, extending approximately 30 miles. Thereafter followed a 4.6 magnitude quake at  11:01 p.m on July 5; a 4.6 at 1:32 a.m. on July 6; a 4.9  at 2:28 a.m. on July 6; a 4.5 at 6:06 a.m. on July 6; a 4.5 at 4:50 p.m on July 6; a 4.5 at 10:38 p.m. on July 6; a 4.5 at 5:14 on July 10; and a 4.9 this morning at 6:11 a.m.
he quakes and aftershakes have left rifts in the desert floor, cracked pavement, triggered fires and knocked or partially shifted some homes off their foundations. In retail establishments, warehouses and garages, merchandize and items have fallen off shelves and racks have come down.
Water and gas lines were damaged, including a break in a water line from Ridgecrest to Trona, which was depressurized, ceasing water flow to the town until late this week. Crews began patching the water line in an effort to restore water availability in the town, but multiple breaks were located.  Residents were advised to boil any water they obtained through the water system or any other source before drinking it.
Trona, with its population of less than 1,700, initially received far less attention than did 29,000 population Ridgecrest in neighboring Kern County. In the aftermath of the July 4 quake, emergency responders inundated the area and were vectored into what was erroneously believed to be at and around the quake’s epicenter, Ridgecrest, to take stock of the damage and provide assistance. Fire crews arrived from elsewhere in California and remained in the Ridgecrest area toward the end of the weekend. By early this week, however, it was clear that the situation in Trona was more dire than in the city 28 miles away over the Kern County line. While water service and natural gas service in Ridgecrest had been restored to almost all areas of the region as Monday dawned, Trona was yet without basic services.
Governor Gavin Newsom on July 4 declared a state of emergency in Ridgecrest, leaving Trona out of that pronouncement even though the initial large quake was centered closer to Trona and wreaked greater havoc there. On July 5, two hours after the 7.1 magnitude quake, Newsom corrected that oversight, extending the declaration to Bernardino County. The waterline from Ridgecrest feeds cisterns in Trona that by Monday were depleted.
On Monday, California National Guard troops were in Trona, initially to control reports of looting that later were learned to be in error.  National Guard troops as well as armed San Bernardino County Probation Department officers were in place at various “major” intersections and thoroughfares in the down, on occasion directing traffic.
By Tuesday, after soldiers alerted their higher-ups that the town’s water system was broken and non-operational, National Guard personnel were assisting in the dispensing of water from water trucks that had been sent to the city, as well as handing out cases of bottled water to Trona residents along with large packages of ice.
At one point, residents and those who happened to be in Trona at the time were not being permitted to leave the town. Arrangements were made to provide a shuttle bus that was to run from Trona out Highway 178 to the Red Cross shelter set up in Ridgecrest, but because of poor communications, few people initially knew where the bus was to arrive, and on the first two runs, only one person was there to use the service when it arrived in front of Trona High School.
By mid-day Monday, San Bernardino County had coordinated with the Red Cross for emergency response vehicles to be stationed at various places within the town or to drive about to assist residents that might be hurt or in distress.
The sheriff’s department, which already maintains in Trona one of the highest ratios of deputies to overall population among any of the communities it has patrol authority over, had dispatched even more deputies to the town. These sheriff’s deputies, along with county fire department personnel, began checking Trona’s four main neighborhoods, in particular the homes of those recognized as being in a particularly vulnerable state, to actively search out those who might have been injured.
A volunteer group, Trona Cares, had assigned its members to obtain and deliver water to those members of the Trona population, in a particular the elderly and infirm, who have limited mobility or are not ambulatory at all.
All of the restaurants in town, as well as the major retail outlet offering groceries, Dollar General, were shuttered on Monday.
By midweek, the Victor Valley Transit Authority had dispatched three of its transportation vans to the town to assist in getting to confined elements of the population and some shut-ins, as low-hanging overhead wires in some neighborhoods made attempting to access them with larger vehicles inadvisable.
he quake had hit very proximate to the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, which occupies 19,600 square miles in Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo counties and over which the airspace is restricted and controlled. By midweek, there was concern that the seismic activity had potentially damaged the storage units for the unknown quantities of tactical atomic and nuclear weapons known to be kept by the Navy at the facility. With word of potential radioactive contamination seeping into the region’s groundwater or emanating into the atmosphere, Dr. Nancy H. Weres, a physician with a practice in Hesperia who administers to the Trona population, issued an advisory that precautions needed to be taken and that residents could not count on the government to fully disclose or disclose at all that a contamination had occurred.
“The  Navy is being circumspect about whether nuclear materials were affected by the 6.4 quake under their weapons testing facility in San Bernardino County,” Weres said on July 5, prior to the 7.1 quake. “People should have started talking iodine yesterday if there was a leak, and Trona should have been evacuated.”
Weres said those remaining in Trona should “take 6.25 mg of Iodiral per day.”
A number of the town’s residents were not sleeping in their homes or staying in them at all because of concern about their stability and the possibility they might collapse.
As early as Monday, officials, including San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Mike Horton, had begun an inspection of the structures around Trona, beginning with the larger ones that were open to the public, though smaller buildings and homes came under scrutiny later that day and on Tuesday and Wednesday. Several, including the Old Guest House Museum downtown and the 61-year-old St. Madeleine Catholic Church, were red-tagged. The red tags were affixed to the most prominent entrances to those buildings, containing the address, parcel number, the reason for the quarantine action, a declaration of the building as unsafe and an order that it not be entered or occupied. As of this morning nine commercial buildings in the town and nine homes had been red-tagged. Even those homes already inspected which had not yet been red-tagged could be tagged or eventually condemned because continuing seismic activity, existing fissures in foundations and the region’s sandy soil could combine to further compromise both the foundations of buildings and the structural integrity of several buildings above ground.
Residents who left their homes and have recently returned have encountered notices telling them that even if their houses are not red-tagged, they will yet need to contact the county building department or code enforcement for an inspection which could deem the homes uninhabitable. The concern officials have is that the buildings with compromised foundations or cracks in their wooden beams could collapse. Based on a visual survey done during a rapid drive-through of the town and its four main neighborhoods, more than 150 homes and buildings have some level of apparent earthquake damage.
mergency rations were being handed out by the California National Guard in Trona on Tuesday. Similar provisions were available at the Ridgecrest Salvation Army headquarters for those who could make the drive there.
A cooling station, using electrical power to the city that had been restored and backed up by emergency generators was established at the Trona Library, which had not been red tagged.
As of Tuesday, portable toilets and showers had been brought into the town, the lion’s share of which had been placed on or next to the high school campus.
On July 10, a town hall meeting was held at the Trona High School Gymnasium, where information on available emergency services was provided and officials offered a somewhat inexact timetable with regard to the repairs to be made to infrastructure. San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood in whose First District Trona lies, Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, Searles Domestic Water Company representative Audrey Schuyler  and American Red Cross Volunteer Team Captain Georgia Duncan were among those briefing the crowd, which at one point swelled to more than 400. On hand were representatives of, or those who could speak for, the county assessor’s office, the San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, the behavioral health and public health departments, the department of veterans affairs, land use services, preschool services, the transitional assistance department and the workforce development department, Cal Fresh the California Contractors State Licensing Board; the Franchise Tax Board, the state insurance commissioner and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Food, primarily sandwiches, and beverages were being served at the high school gymnasium.
A second cooling center at the First Baptist Church of Searles Valley, located at 84661 Trona Road, was opened on Thursday at 8 a.m. to remain open until  7:30 p.m.
By late yesterday, the Searles Domestic Water Company had restored service to all of Trona with the exception of pockets within the Pioneer Point neighborhood. An advisory to boil the water used for drinking was yet in effect.
The Trona Post Office remained closed and local mail was yet be routed by the U.S. Postal Service to Ridgecrest.
Electrical service in general to the town is reestablished, with the exception of isolated areas where power lines are in a precarious state.
Though Pacific Gas & Electric had reestablished gas utility function to the town earlier this week, gas meter flow interruptions led to pilot lights on appliances in most homes shutting off and the flow valves into the individual residences being closed. Those returning home are advised to contact Pacific Gas & Electric for gas flow into their homes to be resumed and pilot lights to be reignited.
-Mark Gutglueck

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