(CBS) – The city of Ridgecrest, California was hit by the region’s strongest earthquake in 20 years on Thursday. And while the area recovers from injuries, fires, and damaged homes caused by the 6.4 magnitude quake, officials fear that a second, stronger earthquake could strike in the coming days.
Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones says the area should expect aftershocks to continue for some time. “There is about a 1 in 20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake within the next few days,” Jones said.
Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said she’s concerned about more potential damage. Breeden has declared a state of emergency for the city, which she said “allows us to seek services from all the entities, both state and federal, that can help us with the clean-up.”
Breeden said the city is sending crews out to assess damage. Officials are looking for potential problems in the roads and issues with the city’s pipes – all while aftershocks continue to shake the area.
Although the epicenter of the quake was in Ridgecrest, where items flew off the shelves at local businesses, the shaking was felt as far away as Las Vegas.
“Everything that was on the shelves came crashing down,” said store employee Kaitlin Alexander. “The wine, all I heard was ‘crrsss.’ And it just fell.”
Home security cameras caught the shaking that also caused roads to crack and sent at least one house up in flames. “We have multiple injuries,” said Kern County Fire Chief David Witt. “We’ve had two house fires, we’ve had small vegetation fires, power lines down, gas leaks.”
The local hospital was partially damaged, so 15 patients were evacuated as a precaution. Some had to be air-lifted to other hospitals.
Tremors were even felt more than 100 miles away at KCBS, CBS News’ Los Angeles station.
This was one of the largest quakes to hit southern California since the 1994 Northridge earthquake. That quake had a magnitude of 6.7; it left 72 people dead and caused up to $20 billion in damage.