Southern California braces for hundreds of aftershocks following powerful 7.1 earthquake

Southern California was bracing for hundreds of powerful aftershocks Saturday after a major earthquake rattled residents and shook buildings for a second straight day.

The latest tremor occurred in the Mojave Desert near Ridgecrest, a town of 22,000 people still reeling after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on the Fourth of July.

The 7.1 tremor, which rocked the state on Friday around 8 p.m. local time, is largest to hit the area in nearly 20 years. The earthquake was felt throughout California, including in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area and as far north as Sacramento.

“This was a very large earthquake, and we also know there’s going to be a series of aftershocks as a result of the main quake,” Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci told reporters during a late-night news conference.

“This is not going to be something that’s going to be over right away.”

Friday’s quake was followed by a series of large and small aftershocks, including a few above magnitude 5.0.

Related: Southern California quake on July Fourth

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Southern California quake on July Fourth
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: A local resident inspects a crack in the earth after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: People walk near cracks in the road after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: A crack stretches across the road after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
TRONA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: Workers repair damaged utility lines after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 in Trona, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
TRONA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: Workers remove downed utility lines after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 in Trona, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: A local resident photographs a fissure in the earth after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area on July 4, 2019 near Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across much of Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Vehicles drive over a crack on Highway 178 south of Trona, after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit in Ridgecrest, California, on July 4, 2019. - Southern California was rocked by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey said, with authorities warning that the temblor, the largest in two decades, might not be the day's last. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A damaged home is seen after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit in Ridgecrest, California, on July 4, 2019. - Southern California was rocked by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey said, with authorities warning that the temblor, the largest in two decades, might not be the day's last. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A damaged home is seen after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit in Ridgecrest, California, on July 4, 2019. - Southern California was rocked by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey said, with authorities warning that the temblor, the largest in two decades, might not be the day's last. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
RIDGELINE, CA JULY 4: Charles Hawkins tries to move a dresser off of his bed hours after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake severely damaged his home July 4, 2019 near Ridgeline, California. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
RIDGELINE, CA JULY 4: A jack pylon pierces the living room floor of Charles Hawkins' mobile home that was severely damaged by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake July 4, 2019 near Ridgeline, California. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
RIDGELINE, CA JULY 4: Charles Hawkins is embraced by his mother Elizabeth outside his home that was severely damaged in a 6.4 magnitude earthquake July 4, 2019 near Rideline, California. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A car drives past a crack in the road on Highway 178, south of Trona, after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit in Ridgecrest, California, on July 4, 2019. - Southern California was rocked by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey said, with authorities warning that the temblor, the largest in two decades, might not be the day's last. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CALIFORNIA - JULY 04: Charred items sit in front of a home which caught fire following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on July 4, 2019 in Ridgecrest, California. The earthquake was the largest to strike Southern California in 20 years with the epicenter located in a remote area of the Mojave Desert. The temblor was felt by residents across Southern California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Seismologist Lucy Jones speaks at a media briefing at the Caltech Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena, California following the 6.4 Searles earthquake near Ridgecrest about 150 miles (241km) north of Los Angeles, July 4, 2019. - Southern California was rocked by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake Thursday morning, the US Geological Survey said, with authorities warning that the temblor, the largest in two decades, might not be the day's last. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CA - JULY 04: A patient is evacuated from Ridgecrest Regional Hospital after city was hit by a 6.4 earthquake July 04, 2019 in Ridgecrest, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
RIDGECREST, CA - JULY 04: Firefighters place cots for patients being evacuated from Ridgecrest Regional Hospital after a 6.4 earthquake struck July 04, 2019 in Ridgecrest, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A damaged motorhome is seen red-taped after an earthquake, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Ridgecrest, Calif. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. 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, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
Earthquake damage inside the Daily Independent newspaper office seen after an earthquake in Ridgecrest, Calif., Thursday, July 4, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. 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, Calif. (Jessica Weston/ The Daily Independent via AP)
Earthquake damage inside the Daily Independent newspaper office seen after an earthquake in Ridgecrest, Calif., Thursday, July 4, 2019. The strongest earthquake in 20 years shook a large swath of Southern California and parts of Nevada on Thursday, rattling nerves on the July 4th holiday and causing injuries and damage in a town near the epicenter, followed by a swarm of ongoing aftershocks. 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, Calif. (Jessica Weston/ The Daily Independent via AP)
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The United States Geological Survey on Saturday said that the chance of another earthquake of a magnitude 5 or higher is greater than 99%, adding that as many as 11 such tremors could occur in the coming days. The chance of an additional magnitude 6 earthquake is about 39% while the chance for another magnitude 7 or higher is just 5%.

The agency estimated there will be “as few as 360 or as many as 660” aftershock tremors with a magnitude 3 or more in the upcoming week.

“Magnitude 3 and above are large enough to be felt near the epicenter,” the USGS tweeted. “The number of aftershocks will drop off over time, but a large aftershock can increase the numbers again temporarily.”

Several thousand people were left without power on Saturday following the quakes and a series of natural gas leaks were reported in the aftermath.

The gas lines have since been shut off, authorities said.

Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said the incident sparked two building fires, one of which involved a burning mobile home. Meanwhile, medical staff at Ridgecrest Regional hospital for the second day in a row were forced to evacuate patients, some of them still attached to their IVS, CNN reported.

The tremors also left several roads split open and State Route 178 in Kern County was closed off by a rock slide.

No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported from either quake, though the full extent of the damage they’ve caused is not yet clear, Ghilarducci said. Responders had only just begun to observe the impacts Satudrday morning, he added.

The pair of earthquakes were the most powerful to strike the region since 1994, when a 6.7 magnitude tremor shook the heavily populated San Fernando Valley. It left 57 people dead and caused billions in damages.

With News Wire Services

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