Commemorating the Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence

I’ll never forget the 4th of July 2019. And nor will the residents of Ridgecrest, CA where large earthquakes on back-to-back days rumbled more dramatically than the fireworks. Felt throughout Southern California, Magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes occurred in Ridgecrest on July 4 and 5, 2019. We commemorate this one-year anniversary with stories of resilience.

Ridgecrest, with its stark desert beauty situated far from urban areas, boasts a cozy 0.1% of California’s population. Yes, the M7.1 was technically the largest earthquake in California in 20 years, but it wasn’t the doomsday situation that could be caused by a quake that size centered near downtown Los Angeles.

Ridgecrest as seen from CA hwy 178
Ridgecrest as seen from the west (view from CA hwy 178) – photo credit: Matt Affolter

We asked our customers and followers for their Ridgecrest stories, and here we share a selection. The most common comment we received from residents of Ridgecrest was that it wasn’t just the two earthquakes – the ground has been shaking all year by a continuing sequence of aftershocks, most recently a M5.5 on June 3.

The M6.4 earthquake, in the voice of S.M. from Ridgecrest:

“My wife and I were in a town about an hour north of Ridgecrest, serving lemonade at the town hall for the 4th of July. We did not feel anything. All of a sudden my phone was ringing nonstop. I glanced down and saw 20+ messages asking if we were ok. OK from what?

“I stopped my lemonade line. Called my daughter who was home with our new puppy. She tells me she is fine. “That was strong, Dad” and I tell her to hold on. I called my brother in law. Told him we were out of the area, asked him to check on our daughter. He went straight to our house, then texted me all was ok.

“We started serving lemonade again, but 10 min later he texted, ‘GET HOME?!’ I stopped the line again and announced, “There has been a major earthquake in Ridgecrest, and I’m sorry but we need to leave.” We arrived home 2 hours later. It was surreal. Emergency workers were all over doing hospital evaluations. A house fire next street over. Luckily, our family and friends were all safe.”¬† ¬† -S.M., Ridgecrest

Among survey respondents from Ridgecrest and Trona, here were the most common experiences:
  • damage to personal belongings
  • repairs took longer than expected
  • my business lost revenue
  • no damages at all
USGS map showing the intensity of the Ridgecrest earthquake
The M7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake was felt throughout Southern California. Credit: USGS
Scott from Ridgecrest tells this story about the M7.1 earthquake:

“The temp was still 100+ degrees, and I was inside making dinner for my wife and daughter. My daughter had dropped an empty plate. I had just cleaned it up, when all the the sudden we were on a 46 sec ride of our lives. The noise was so loud. I yelled “hold on!” as I watched the whole house in motion. The meal I was cooking started to fall, and I caught it in mid-fall. (Burning my hand.) When the shaking stopped, I yelled, “Everyone out!” Once outside I realized I was wearing boxers and a tee shirt. Whoops!

“Looking around, all the neighbors were out, too. Except across the street. I went over and knocked on the door. It was not a friendly knock, more like FBI raid knock. We helped them get outside, then went back and turned off all gas and water. It was crazy. The ground never stopped moving for 4 days.” – Scott, Ridgecrest

Did the Ridgecrest earthquake “set off” other earthquakes throughout the Great Basin since then? For example, the M5.7 in Utah, the M6.5 in Nevada, and the M6.4 in Idaho (plus many aftershocks) in Idaho? Actually, an earthquake can have effects hundreds of miles away, even beyond where the shaking was felt.

Map of four large earthquakes in the past year
Several unusually-large earthquakes have occurred throughout the Great Basin in the past year.
A Founder’s Story

Up in the Bay Area, more than 600 km and two mountain ranges away, we didn’t feel any shaking. Jumpstart had launched less than a year before, and I had been working nonstop for the past 4 years. I relished the rare day off to spend fully with my family.

a band surrounded by children at a Berkeley July 4th neighborhood parade
A neighborhood parade in Berkeley to celebrate Independence Day

We were celebrating the holiday at our neighborhood  parade which starts at 10:30am each year (except this year). Kids are encouraged to decorate their bikes, trikes, and scooters. Leading the parade is a flatbed pickup truck that children can ride along with a local jazz band that plays patriotic anthems.

After the parade, 13 lucky attendees get to ring the “Liberty Bell” in turn, while declaring the name of each colony in order of when it ratified the Constitution. (Delaware was first. Who knew?) It was around that time that I started getting text messages.

Yep, an earthquake felt throughout Southern CA and large enough to trigger a Jumpstart payment zone. So much for my day off. I remember feeling jittery with nervous excitement. Was the situation dire? Would our systems work? Would we make any payouts and have “success stories” to tell? (the answers turned out to be: No, Yes, and Not Yet)

The rest of my day was a whirlwind of notifications, system checks, and updates – to customers, investors, and the public at-large. A follower in Germany predicted that it would be “D-day” for Jumpstart. Well, no.

But we Californians do love a good little jolt. They remind us of a lesson that’s suddenly all-too-familiar: Life can change in a moment. We must be grateful for the “now”, and resilient for the “when.”