Remembering Ridgecrest

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Detailed Description

Reflections on the Ridgecrest earthquake sequence one year after from a few USGS employees. Employees discuss when they first heard about the magnitude 6.4 and notable professional experiences that happened afterwards.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:04:00

Location Taken: Pasadena, CA, US

Video Credits

Official White House Photo of the Vice President courtesy of D. Myles Cullen


Donyelle Davis (Public Affairs Specialist)

I knew that it had to be a big earthquake.

Is this a dream, this was my first week back to the states from deployment. I called the public affairs officer at Caltech and she tells me the media is already outside, they’re lined up, we need to get things in place ASAP. 

Kate Scharer (Research Geologist)

I was in the Dominican Republic teaching a seminar on earthquake hazards to Domincan geologists and engineers.

Robert de Groot (ShakeAlert Communications Coordinator)

My wife and I were eating dinner and we dropped, covered, and held on. My first reaction was wow, this earthquake is going on a really long time. 

Rufus Catchings (Research Geophysicist)

There was a small earthquake, a 6.4, which turned out to be the foreshock, and the next day there was a 7.1. I was actually at the office getting ready to respond to the 6.4 when the 7.1 occurred. 


As those earthquakes decay over time we want to collect as much information just moments after the big earthquake and that means getting people out to the field.

Ken Hudnut (Geophysicist)

After the 6.4 I knew that I would be involved in responding and I went with Janis Hernandez — we met up early on with Kelly Blake  — and together we made the first geological confirmation that that was indeed a surface fault rupture from the 6.4. The next day Janis and I went by helicopter as well, and got a big picture overview of the surface rupture.  Then we reported to the Navy and later to the City of Ridgecrest; all of that happened before the 7.1, so we were able to provide some really important situational awareness. 


We blanketed the area with a large number of seismographs, which give us an unprecedented detail about what is happening with the fault as far as the aftershocks are concerned. 

What was your most memorable experience?


The most memorable experience was certainly the heat. It was over 105 degrees out there most of the days we were in the field.


Probably the most memorable thing is the heat. It was 110 to 120 degrees, and we were out there all day. That was pretty significant. 


You know Lucy Jones was great and Rob Graves was great about helping dogsit while we wrangled media.


I’ve never before and probably never will again have an opportunity to brief the Vice President of the United States of America. 


All of these different agencies that you would not necessarily see working together, working together. So seeing the USGS, the Navy, the State, Caltech, some of the other academics, coming together, working toward the same goal and really learning the culture and learning the terminology and the lingo and everyone sharing and cross sharing, that was the most memorable part.

What should we know and do?


Don’t assume that everything that’s forthcoming is an aftershock. Perhaps that large earthquake you just had is a foreshock. So be prepared and act accordingly. 


If you do one thing this week to be more prepared for an earthquake you’ll be better for it. 

De Groot

The fact that we continue to develop these new tools for our earthquake reduction toolbox demonstrates the commitment of the USGS to really helping people survive earthquakes. 


There can be a tendency to in areas that are experiencing a lot of aftershocks to say, “I’ve done that drop cover and hold on so many times,” but you never know whether it is going to develop into a larger one so secure your space. You can use Velcro and other ways of fastening and also drop, cover, and hold on. But there is a longer list of protective actions you can take, it’s call the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.