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One Year Later: Aftershocks are a regular occurrence in Ridgecrest, and will continue to be

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-04 14:59:16-04

RIDGECREST, Calif. — The big stories of July 4th and 5th last year were, of course, the big shakes. But ever since, residents in Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas have been feeling a nearly constant series of smaller aftershocks. 23ABC spoke to seismologist and earthquake expert Dr. Lucy Jones to learn more about aftershocks.

“Every earthquake makes another earthquake more likely," Jones said.

And the bigger the earthquake, the more aftershocks it will produce, Jones said. Jones says quakes as big as the one last summer are rare, in fact, California only sees a 7.0 magnitude event about once a decade. She says it’s considered normal that the area is still seeing upwards of hundreds of aftershocks a week. But those aftershocks take a toll.

“It wasn’t until we moved that I was able to re-stabilize mentally," said Vincent Tulino, a former Ridgecrest resident.

Tulino’s Ridgecrest home was rattled by the two big quakes. He recently moved out of state for work, but he says one of the best parts of moving was getting away from the aftershocks. Even though for him the shaking is gone, he says last summer still left a mark.

“A truck rolls by and causes a windowpane to rattle a little bit, and my wife and I literally freeze and look at each other, and it's like no no no we’re not there anymore," Tulino.

And since so many others that are still in town feel the same, when will the aftershocks end? Jones says seismologists will figure that out by examining the number of earthquakes that normally happened in Ridgecrest before the July 4th event and comparing it to the number of quakes happening after. She uses the example of how many earthquakes happened in a week last June, compared to now.

“You had seven earthquakes in a week a year ago, and you had 250 in a week this, right," Dr. Jones said.

Until the area’s seismic activity returns to its normal rate. All smaller quakes in the area will be considered aftershocks. She says the frequency of aftershocks has been, and will continue to decrease gradually as time passes. But for it to truly get back to its normal rate will be a matter of quite a few years, as was the case with the 7.5 magnitude Tehachapi quake that happened in 1952.

“It did not get back to that background rate before the 90s," Jones said.

Jones anticipates, however, that the Ridgecrest area will return to normal quicker than Tehachapi because the Ridgecrest event was a smaller magnitude. When asked about the likelihood that another large-scale quake happens in the area, Jones said it’s more likely that there will only continue to be magnitude 1, 2, 3, some four, and rarely a five.

The seismologist also underlining the importance of always being ready for something bigger.

“Most likely it doesn’t happen, but you can’t say it won’t happen," Jones said.

Jones says any quake that is within 30 miles of the Ridgecrest quake’s fault line is considered an aftershock. Last week’s 5.8 Lone Pine quake was just outside of that zone.