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    Video by Reuters

    LOS ANGELES — The largest earthquake to hit Southern California in two nearly decades left residents near the epicenter in Ridgecrest and Kern County shaken.

    The quake caused some fires and threw merchandise off shelves at stores. It was not immediately clear whether there were casualties.

    “I was laying down in my bed and I had my feet on the wall and I felt like both of the sides of the house were moving and shaking, so I ran and grabbed my brother and kid and came outside,” said Edith Mata, 22, a student at Bakersfield College. Her son is 3 years old and her brother is 17.

    “The neighbors across the street were also outside with their whole family of five people. My kid had no idea what was going on.” Mata said that it felt very “creepy” and that she had never experienced anything like it before.

    Others described two different shaking events.

    “I was in my kitchen trying to get some coffee and all the windows started rattling,” Emma Gallegos, a 34-year-old journalist in southwest Bakersfield, said. “It was just a little bit at first — I thought something was going by, and then I realized all the windows were rattling. It was kind of a long, gentle roll and I felt two distinct waves.”

    Slideshow by photo?services

    There were reports of some damage near the epicenter, including bottles and other items falling off shelves. Fire officials said they were responding to “nearly two dozen incidents ranging from medical assistance to structure fires in and around” Ridgecrest.

    Barbara Butler, 90, was shopping in the Dollar Tree at China Lake and Ridgecrest boulevards when the shaking started.

    “There was a shelf with all of the supplies for cleaning, and all of a sudden, I felt a big jolt and that was coming down,” she said. “It fell all around me, and liquids went everywhere, and the lights went out.”

    Butler, who walks with a cane, said she was able to maneuver out of the way before the shelf crashed to the floor. After the rolling stopped, other shoppers helped her out to her car, where she drove straight to her house to assess the damage.

    She said a collection of glass cups and saucers that had belonged to her mother was destroyed, as was an antique case that housed them. “But they’re just things,” said Butler, who has lived in the area for 50 years.

    Jenny Campbell, a bookkeeper at the Albertsons on China Lake Boulevard in Ridgecrest, said the entire store was moving with light fixtures and pieces of the ceiling falling, bottles and glass broken in the aisles. The store is without power and running on backup generators.

    “I was just shocked. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” she said.

    Virginia Henry was reading in her Inyokern bedroom — about 10 miles from Ridgecrest — when the shaking started.

    “It was feeling a whole like the Loma Prieta earthquake up in San Francisco in ’89,” she said.

    The 72-year-old toy store owner had experienced the deadly magnitude 6.9 earthquake 30 years prior. Remembering how her husband had been knocked out by falling bookcases in the 1989 quake, Henry retreated from her bookcase-filled bedroom to her closet during the shaking. “I immediately thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t be sitting there.’ ”

    She drove into Ridgecrest shortly after the earthquake to check on her toy and game store, Just Imagine. There didn’t appear to be any damage to the store, which had been closed for the holiday. “We just have a whole bunch of things lying on the floor,” Henry said.

    “Here in Ridgecrest, we have power and everything is fine. A lot of businesses are open,” Henry said. However, back in rural Inyokern, things were “kind of dead,” according to Henry. “No Wi-Fi, no electricity.”

    In Ridgecrest, engineer Mark Leach was in his garage about to drive to a July 4 barbecue in Los Angeles when the shaking started. He’s lived in California for 12 years but this was his first major earthquake here. It felt like the shaking went on for 30 seconds, he said.

    It wasn’t his first earthquake ever. He was in Seattle for the Nisqualle earthquake in 2001 — a 6.8 in the Puget Sound. This felt just as bad to him.

    “About halfway through it I dashed out into the road completely freaking out,” he said. “But there was massive shaking even when you were out on solid ground, terra firma. There was substantial shaking of the whole house. You can see some cracking in the seams of the drywall and stuff was knocked off the shelves — books and CDs and stuff. A lamp went over, but nothing really huge — like a bookcase or anything — fell over.”

    A little while after the earthquake, SoCal Edison shut off the power, but sent messages to customers that it expected to turn it back on by 12:30 p.m.

    Outside, Leach’s neighbors also came out of their houses. “Our neighbor was totally calm.” But as the aftershocks started, Leach said he could actually hear the quakes them before he felt the shaking.

    The earthquake was centered 10 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, a city of about 29,000 in Kern County mostly known as a stopover for skiers and snowboarders headed from Los Angeles to Mammoth.

    The earthquake was felt widely throughout the Los Angeles area, said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson. It’s unlikely there was significant damage in a major urban area given that the earthquake was centered in such a remotely populated area.

    The area that ruptured occurred in an area of faults slightly east of the Sierra Nevada. The Little Lake fault is one of them, and last went through a magnitude 6 earthquake in 1984, Hauksson said.

    ———

    ?2019 Los Angeles Times

    Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

    Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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