LOS ANGELES, CA – This past weekend, on July 4th and 5th, major earthquakes struck the town of Ridgecrest outside of Los Angeles. After these significant seismic events structural engineers visited the city to evaluate the devastation from quakes that were the largest to hit Southern California in almost 20 years. Shockingly, they uncovered very little damage.
Definitely some mobile homes were ripped from their foundations, some chimneys toppled, gas lines leaked, and a few homes erupted into flames. Nevertheless, in a general sense, most of the structures managed okay. In fact, many businesses were back up and running within a day of the biggest jolt which was measured at 7.1.
“Ridgecrest, I’m just amazed,” California Earthquake Authority structural engineer Janiele Maffei said of the limited damage.
Despite the remarkable lack of damage, California shouldn’t be comforted. This city handled the event well because the building stock was mostly new and definitely tough. Plus, many of the homes are one or two stories high and built in the 1980s’. Basically, the city is full of the kind of structures that are not the most insecure in a large quake.
For this reason, Ridgecrest experienced less destruction than cities who endured much smaller quakes in recent years. These include Napa and Paso Robles. Here older, more brittle building tumbled easily amid the shaking. This is why experts noted that if the quakes had struck near bigger cities it would have been more destructive. Old, susceptible buildings would have quickly fallen.
“You take a 7.1 and put it into the Hollywood fault or Newport-Inglewood fault in Long Beach – we’re going to see substantially different levels of damage,” noted Ken O’Dell, president of the Structural Engineers Assn. of Southern California. He added that Ridgecrest deserved lots of credit for coming through the event so well.