Capitol Alert

Declaring emergency, Gavin Newsom says Trump administration will help in quake response

After touring damage wrought by back-to-back earthquakes, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that the Trump administration has committed to helping the state with its disaster response in Southern California’s high desert.

The governor visited the area hours after it was struck Friday night and spoke at Ridgecrest City Hall flanked by other state officials, including Mark Ghilarducci, the state’s emergency service director. He met with local officials including Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden and the city’s police chief, Jedd McLaughlin.

Meeting with reporters Saturday afternoon, Newsom said he had just gotten off the phone with President Donald Trump, who told him he was committed to “whatever you need” to respond to the disaster.

“We don’t agree on everything but one area where there’s no politics, and we worked extraordinarily well together, is on emergency response and recovery, and increasing that emergency preparedness,” Newsom said, citing past work with Trump on fighting the wildfires in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties last year.

“I have all the confidence in the world that the president will be forthcoming in immediate terms with the federal declaration,” Newsom said.

The news conference came after Newsom surveyed the extent of the damage around Ridgecrest and spoke with local officials and residents. Newsom said this was an opportunity to examine building codes and said he was fully committed to working on a state-wide early warning emergency alert system, which was “a lot farther along than some actually may believe.”

The governor also thanked Trump for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance with California’s response as an “extension of the administration.”

There are no reports of deaths from the earthquake, but officials said there were injuries from “falling debris.” They did not say how many people were hurt.

Newsom declared a state of emergency for Ridgecrest in Kern County, where thousands were left without power as night fell and 911 operators were overwhelmed with calls for medical assistance. Later, he extended that declaration to parts of San Bernardino County that were affected, including the town of Trona.

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The declarations of emergency let the state to bring in additional crews to help local emergency responders and set up shelters on fairgrounds and state-owned property. Newsom cited “significant damage” from the earthquake to roads, water lines and gas lines, which have in turn sparked numerous fires.

The magnitude 7.1 quake Friday, which was felt as far as Sacramento, came a day after a 6.4 quake hit the same area on July 4th.

Newsom said Saturday morning after meeting at the state’s Office of Emergency Services at Mather that he had asked for a presidential emergency declaration to activate federal money and resources. He also said the State Operations Center was activated “to its highest level” to coordinate the emergency response.

“I offer my heartfelt support to those affected by tonight’s earthquake near Ridgecrest,” Newsom said in a statement Friday.

A “significant number” of aftershocks could occur over the next few days and there’s a 5% chance of another earthquake of the same magnitude hitting the same part of the state, said Ghilarducci.

Caltrans worked through the night to fix roads and clear rockslides, said David Kim, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. All the roads his agency oversees are now open and all state bridges have been inspected and deemed safe, Kim said.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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Jaimie Ding, from Scripps College, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee with an interest in politics and international relations. She grew up in Vancouver, Washington.