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The July 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquakes: California's Most Powerful in Decades

California Shaken: Ridgecrest Earthquakes Unleashed Devastating Power

The July 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquakes were California's biggest in more than 20 years. On Thursday, July 4th, at 10:33 a.m. PST a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck about 12 kilometers (10.5 miles) southwest of Searles Valley. Multiple aftershocks followed, and on Friday, July 5th, another earthquake struck with a magnitude of 7.1.

The July 5, 2019 magnitude 7.1 earthquake which ruptured the earth in the Mojave Desert unleashed the power of 45 nuclear bombs. The earthquake's power was similar to the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.

The July 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence

Earthquakes are not isolated events. There have been 3,557 earthquakes since July 4 in Ridgecrest/Searles Valley. These sequences are often dominated by an earthquake with a larger magnitude than all others in the sequence. Much of downtown Los Angeles felt the larger 7.1 earthquake on July 5. People felt it as far away as Sacramento, San Diego and Las Vegas.

Ridgecrest Earthquake Map

California is seismically active because it sits on the boundary of two giant tectonic plates, the Pacific and North American. Earthquakes happen as the southwestern side of California slides up northwestward toward Alaska, compared to its northeastern half. Though much of that motion results in earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, the seismic stresses are also relieved on other fault strands, including those in the Eastern California Shear Zone which includes Searles Valley and Ridgecrest.

The July Ridgecrest earthquakes occurred on a vertical fault whose northwest-southeast direction drove the intense shaking away from more populated areas. The epicenter occurred just south of the China Basin Naval Air Weapons Center.

Mainshock and aftershock locations shortly after M7.1 event,
Mainshock and aftershock locations shortly after M7.1 event, exhibiting a distinctive “T” pattern created by two perpendicular fault zones. The M6.4 event ruptured along the NE-SW trending fault, and the subsequent M7.1 event ruptured along the NW-SE trending fault. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

Surface Ruptures from the July 4 and 5 Ridgecrest, CA Earthquakes

General surface rupture based on field mapping and satellite

General surface rupture based on field mapping and satellite data as of July 15, 2019. Ruptures from the magnitude 6.4 event trend northeast to southwest, and ruptures from the magnitude 7.1 event trend northwest to southeast. Circles indicate where scientists have visited the fault surface rupture. (Credit: USGS. Public domain.)

Assessing the Damage and Impact of the 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquakes

Image: Damage caused by the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes
California Geological Survey and USGS with National Guard and Navy personnel view road damage associated with the magnitude 7.1 event.

(Photo credit: Ken Hudnut, USGS.)

Damage estimates for the Ridgecrest earthquakes top $1 billion according to U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquakes jolted the Kern County community of Ridgecrest, where most of the temblors were centered, and the city of Trona in San Bernardino County. Big stretches of Highway 178 were left visibly cracked.

Mobilehomes were torn off foundations, chimneys fell, gas lines leaked and some homes caught fire. Residents of Trona were without water service for four days.

While there were areas in Kern County and San Bernardino County that felt very strong to severe shaking, the majority of homes remained in fairly good shape following the back-to-back earthquakes.

Why Some Structures Withstood the Ridgecrest Quakes

Why was the damage relatively minor for most homes? The area homes are relatively new, one or two story, and built with the types of materials that make them more resilient to earthquakes. Had the epicenters been near bigger cities with less resilient buildings, quakes of these magnitudes would have been devastating.

The Impact of the Ridgecrest Earthquake: Aftermath and Devastation

Although it is true that it could have been much worse, we cannot overlook the devastation that these large events caused. In SoCal, people have had to move out of their homes due to earthquake damage, and many had to live in shelters.


For more evidence on how Ridgecrest rocked the area, check out interesting videos and GIFs of the displacement and ground movement.

Lessons Learned from the Ridgecrest Earthquakes

California is earthquake country. With nearly 16,000 known faults, each region of the state holds earthquake risk. Most of us live within 30 miles of an active fault.

Building Smart, Staying Safe: Ridgecrest Earthquakes Reveal Earthquake-Resistant Home Benefits

Residents of Ridgecrest owned homes that were built after 1990 and were made of materials that were more resistant to earthquakes. CEA was on the ground in Ridgecrest and Trona on July 5. More than 20% of Ridgecrest homeowners carried CEA earthquake insurance which helped them with emergency repairs and covered emergency housing when they lost the use of their homes.

The violent shaking from earthquakes can rupture the earth triggering landslides and turning the surface of the earth to liquid. Your home also may be vulnerable to serious structural damage if it was built before 1980.

What to do During an Earthquake

Despite living in earthquake country, many people are not prepared for earthquakes. In the days following the first Ridgecrest earthquake, there was a lot of misinformation on how to best survive a big earthquake. For example, doorways and bathtubs are NOT the safest places!

In the event of an earthquake, practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On:

  • Drop to the ground; get under a sturdy piece of furniture like a table or desk.
  • Cover your head and neck.
  • Hold on until the shaking stops. Injuries occur when people move from safe locations.

Visit our page on the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety.

Be Informed, Buy the Right Earthquake Insurance Coverage

When the back-to-back Ridgecrest earthquakes hit, several fires started, mobilehomes fell off their foundations, and there were breaks in water mains. Some thousands of smaller earthquakes were felt in the following weeks in the communities of Trona and Ridgecrest.

Despite the record number of earthquakes that hit California, California’s Department of Insurance states that only about thirteen percent of Californians statewide are prepared with earthquake insurance.

CEA affordable and flexible home earthquake policies:

  • Offer choices of coverage and deductibles.
  • Protect the investment in your home.
  • Provide you with peace of mind when, not if, the big one hits.

Whether you are a homeowner, mobilehome owner, condo-unit owner or renter, find out about how to buy the best choices in earthquake insurance. Home insurance policies and tenant insurance don't include earthquake coverage. The homeowner or renter needs a separate or companion earthquake policy to cover damages from an earthquake. Find out why over one million California households are covered by CEA earthquake insurance.

Get started today with an estimate.

Common Questions After Ridgecrest

Get answers to frequent questions such as how to buy earthquake insurance after an earthquake, where to buy, and how our coverage options work.

Q: I don't have earthquake insurance. Can I buy a new CEA policy after an earthquake?

A. Yes. CEA has never imposed a moratorium on selling new earthquake insurance policies following any earthquake, even in the areas directly affected by the earthquake.*

If you do choose to purchase a new CEA earthquake insurance policy shortly after the occurrence of an earthquake in your area, and if there are aftershocks or other quakes that are related to that same earthquake, then you should be aware that your new CEA policy will not cover losses from these aftershocks or other related ground-shaking that occurs within 15 days (360 hours) after that earthquake, though would cover damage from completely unrelated earthquakes that may occur immediately after you purchase your policy. That original earthquake, together with all related shaking that occurs within 15 days, are collectively referred to as the "seismic event" in the CEA policy. In other words, the "seismic event" commences upon the initial earthquake, and all earthquakes or aftershocks that occur within the 360 hours (15 days) immediately following the initial earthquake are considered for purposes of this policy to be part of the same "seismic event."

For a loss to be covered under a CEA policy, both the original earthquake that caused the loss (to your property or belongings) and the 15-day "seismic event" that the earthquake is part of must commence during the policy period.

If, however, another earthquake occurs after the new policy goes into effect, and that earthquake is not seismically related to the earlier earthquake (not part of the earlier “seismic event”), then your losses from this new earthquake would be covered, even if they occurred immediately after the effective date of the policy, because those losses would arise from a different seismic event.

If you are a current policyholder and have experienced damage from a covered seismic event, and another quake occurs as part of the same event (for example, with the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck and the next day a 7.1 magnitude struck, as part of the same seismic event), our 360-hour definition allows our policyholders to combine all the damage to meet their deductible. In other words, you do not need to meet your deductible each time; you only need to meet it once.

*It is possible, however, that one or more CEA participating insurers (who sell and service our policies), as well as other insurance companies, may declare a moratorium on new sales of their own insurance policies (e.g., homeowners, condominium owners, or renters insurance that covers the risk of fire) in the affected area after an earthquake or other disaster, so if you reside in an area that has been affected by a recent earthquake and are interested in purchasing homeowners or other property insurance, we recommend you contact the property insurer to see if they have issued a moratorium on the policy types they offer.

Q: Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?

A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of CEA's participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies. Learn more about how to buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy.

Q: How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?

A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live, the age and characteristics of your home, and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers several coverage choices as well as a number of deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator to estimate the cost of your earthquake insurance policy.

Q: How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?

A. You do not pay your deductible out-of-pocket. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front to receive a claim payment. 

Q: Will CEA pay for expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?

A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible to receive payment for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!

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