A magnitude six earthquake rocked communities along the California-Nevada border on Thursday as the region experienced its biggest quake in almost 30 years.
A landslide caused boulders to be tossed into roads when it struck at about 4pm. The tremor was felt as far off as Las Vegas and even San Francisco with experts predicting days of aftershocks will follow.
The quake, the largest since 1994 to hit the area, was centered south of Lake Tahoe near Walker, a rural community of a few hundred households in the eastern Sierra Nevada. No major damage or injuries were reported, authorities said.
The initial quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including at least six that measured magnitude four or above, according to the US Geological Survey.
‘The ground was shaking pretty bad, and then everything started falling’, said Carolina Estrada, manager at the Walker Coffee Company. As plates, pots and pans fell to the ground the roof of the shop caved slightly, Estrada said.
‘We ran out of the building’, she added.
But as the shaking continued ‘boulders the size of cars’ fell onto the nearby US. 395 highway, she said.
The California Highway Patrol said some cars were struck by rocks but have confirmed there were no injuries. Video from drivers showed cars slowly navigating around big blocks of stone that littered the road surface.
At one point, rockslides closed about 40 miles of the interstate, a major route through the northern Sierra Nevada, but the road reopened some hours later following a clean-up operation.
In Gardnerville, Nevada, boxes flew off the shelves at Smith’s Food and Drug store, said employee Brittany Oswald.
‘Our whole entire store was shaking’, recalled Oswald.
‘I just stood there and held onto a table, and waited for it to end.’
The tremors were also felt in the eastern Sierra – where thousands of people camp and hike in national forests – and westward through California’s agricultural Central Valley. The shaking was also noticed about 250 miles away in San Francisco.
‘People in the area should expect aftershocks for days following an earthquake of this size’, said Jason Ballman, a spokesperson for the Southern California Earthquake Center.
Reports of damage or injury might not be available for days because a lot of the shaking was felt in remote areas, Ballman warned.
The quake occurred along the Antelope Valley fault, which extends across the state line near Topaz Lake. Quakes aren’t uncommon there due to major fault lines in the region.
Las month a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattled the eastern Sierra town of Lone Pine and sent boulders crashing down Mount Whitney.
However, Thursday’s quake was the largest recorded since a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the area in 1994.