LOS ANGELES — A strong earthquake rattled a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday morning, making hanging lamps sway and photo frames on walls shake. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries but a swarm of aftershocks were reported.
The 6.4 magnitude quake struck at 10:33 a.m. in the Mojave Desert, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, near the town of Ridgecrest, California. It is the strongest quake to hit the region in 20 years.
The United State Geological Survey initially said it measured at a 6.6 magnitude.
”It almost gave me a heart attack,” said Cora Burke, a waitress at Midway Cafe in Ridgecrest, a town of 28,000 people. “It’s just a rolling feeling inside the building, inside the cafe and all of a sudden everything started falling off the shelf, glasses, the refrigerator and everything in the small refrigerator fell over.”
Video posted online of a liquor store in Ridgecrest showed the aisles filled with broken wine and liquor bottles, knocked down boxes and other groceries strewn on the floor. There was at least one house on fire in Ridgecrest.
Veteran seismologist Lucy Jones said the earthquake Thursday was the strongest to hit Southern California in 20 years.
The previous large quake was a 7.1 on that struck in the area on October 16, 1999, she said.
Jones told reporters at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, that the 6.4 quake centered in the Mojave Desert near the town of Ridgecrest was preceded by a magnitude 4.3 temblor about a half hour earlier.
She says it was vigorous aftershock sequence occurring and that she wouldn’t be surprise if a magnitude 5 quake occurred during the aftershocks.
”We should be expecting lots of aftershocks,” she said.
People from Las Vegas to the Pacific Coast reported feeling a rolling motion and took to social media to report it.
Local emergency agencies also took to social media to ask people to only call 911 for emergencies.
”We are very much aware of the significant earthquake that just occurred in Southern California. Please DO NOT call 9-1-1 unless there are injuries or other dangerous conditions. Don’t call for questions please,” the LAPD said in a statement published on Twitter.
Ashleigh Chandler, a helicopter rescue EMT at Fort Irwin, California, said the quake happened as she was getting ready for a July 4th party.
”I was just in the living room getting everything ready, we start to feel the shaking, so then I look up and then the wine bottles start rattling and I thought, ‘They’re going to fall.’
”My stepson was in the house and my dog, so we just got everyone outside and then it ended. It was like 15, 20 seconds, maybe. It was pretty good shaking, so I’m out of breath.”
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Rachel Lerman in San Francisco and AP Radio reporter Shelly Adler in Washington, D.C., contributed.