Naval Air Weapons State China Lake still closed after big California quakes

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was undergoing recovery efforts on July 7 following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which occurred near NAWSCL and the city of Ridgecrest, Calif., July 5 after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake one day prior. (Navy photograph by John Scorza)

A sprawling Navy base in the Southern California desert is still closed to nonessential personnel July 9 as the military works to determine the damage from two powerful earthquakes last week.

Teams have so far surveyed just 10 percent of the 1,200 facilities at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, spokeswoman Margo Allen said. It’s unclear when personnel and their families will be able to return.

Two strong quakes — a magnitude 6.4 and a 7.1, respectively — struck July 4 and 5 near the small town of Ridgecrest, just outside the 1.2 million-acre base in the Mojave Desert.

Water and gas service have been restored at the base, but engineers are ensuring buildings are safe to enter. The shaking cracked walls in a chapel and school and brought down commissary shelves, Allen said.

“Everything came off the walls. There’s a lot of cleaning up that still has to happen,” she said.

One person suffered a minor foot injury.

Officials said most employees live off base, mainly in Ridgecrest. Some personnel were evacuated to the naval base in Ventura County.

Sen. Shannon Grove and Capt. Paul Dale, commander of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, observe damaged base facilities on July 9 after multiple earthquakes occurred July 4 and 5 in Kern County, Calif. (Navy photograph by PO1 Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

The quakes buckled highways and ruptured gas lines that sparked several house fires. No one was killed or seriously injured, which authorities attributed to the remote desert location.

Officials are still reviewing damage July 9 in communities outside the base.

It could be several more days before water service is restored to the tiny town of Trona, where officials trucked in portable toilets and showers.

President Donald Trump on July 8 declared an emergency in California because of the quakes, paving the way for federal aid. The declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The large quakes were followed by thousands of smaller aftershocks. The U.S. Geological Survey said the aftershocks will taper off, and the probability of another large quake — magnitude 4 or higher — also will decrease.