Larry Garcia was born and raised in Oakdale and still operates a landscaping business here.
But the earth beneath his feet gave him cause for pause on July 5 – as he was at property he owns in Trona, not far from the epicenter of the 7.1 earthquake that hit Southern California last Friday night.
“Trona is about 21 miles from Ridgecrest and the epicenter was between both towns,” Garcia, who lives on Stearns Road in Oakdale, said on Monday night.
He has property and a home in Trona and had heard of the first quake, a smaller but still significant 6.4 magnitude quake that hit the morning of July 4.
“My neighbor (from Trona) got hold of me,” he explained of friends checking in after the first quake. “Shortly after that ADT security called and said there was movement in the house, I thought maybe a burglar.”
The alarm instead was believed to have been set off by the motion of the quake or items falling off shelves.
Garcia said he and his partner of 20 years, April, were having friends over to their Oakdale home for Fourth of July festivities but made plans to drive to Trona on Friday to check on their house and property there. Making the trip with them was Garcia’s adult son, Larimie, visiting from his home in Mexico City.
“We got there about 6:30 p.m. on July 5, there was no structural damage but there were things that were tossed around,” Garcia explained. “Some pictures on the wall had fallen, there were three liquor bottles that had fallen off a shelf onto a concrete floor but somehow none of them had broken.”
After taking stock at their home, Garcia and April went to visit with their next door neighbors in Trona and were visiting on the back patio when the 7.1 temblor hit on Friday night.
“It looked like everything was bending,” Garcia explained of the sensation. “It just looked like it was rubber.”
All of them “bailed from the patio,” he added, and rushed to the front of the house, where they saw their vehicles rocking and jostling with the motion of the ground. Garcia said it was nearly impossible to stand up straight and he saw his own three-quarter ton pick-up rocking, both tires on the passenger side being lifted off the ground.
“The big shaker lasted about 20 seconds,” he estimated of the time frame.
While there are “gaps” and “cracks” in fences and walls, Garcia said he is hopeful that structural damage to his home is minimal. In the second earthquake, though, he added, the liquor bottles did not survive.
There were problems throughout the town as well, with power out for several hours at a time and lack of water.
“That night we slept outside,” Garcia said of spending the night in Trona on July 5.
Part of that was because they were concerned about another quake and being in the house if and when it occurred and the other because roads out of the community were closed due to problems on surrounding highways.
Garcia said it was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“This is something we’re not really used to,” he admitted of feeling a quake while living in Oakdale. “Larimie was in the Northridge earthquake years ago when he was in college and he was in Mexico City for that one a few years ago.”
Garcia added that there are four regions to Trona, including Trona Proper, West End, Argus and Pioneer Point, where his home is located.
“There’s still a lot of aftershocks,” he said, explaining that the trio felt many of them during the short time they were there before returning home over the weekend.
“You can hear it coming before it really strikes,” Garcia said of the aftershocks. “We’re going to wait a while and then go back down, check on everything again.”