The cluster of low- to moderate earthquakes intensified around noon Sunday, when three earthquakes hit within a minute of each other, initially measuring at 5.3, 5.4 and 5.3 in magnitude, causing the majority of structural damages in Brawley.
Several residents reported damage to the interiors of their homes. Some structural damage was reported in the city.
The series of quakes has allowed Brawley students to extend their summer break by a day, as local school officials have reported that schools would remain closed today to allow for inspection.
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The schools closed include Brawley Union High School, Brawley Elementary School District (Witter, Hidalgo, Oakley, Phil Swing, and Barbara Worth), Del Rio Community School, and Mulberry Elementary. However, Westmorland Union Elementary and Magnolia will remain open, according to Imperial County Public Health information officer Maria Peinado.
Patients at Brawley’s Pioneers Memorial Hospital were also affected by the earthquakes, as the hospital evacuated patients out of the facility due to a power outage and structural damages sustained by the quake.
“Forty-nine patients were transferred throughout the region,” Peinado said.
Many of the patients transferred out of the hospital were relocated to El Centro Regional Medical Center, Yuma Regional Medical Center, Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Desert, Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, said Peinado.
The power was later re-established throughout the hospital. The power outage was part of many sporadic outages throughout Imperial County, primarily occurring in Brawley due to the rolling quakes, explained Imperial Irrigation District spokeswoman Marion Champion.
Families living in a mobile home neighborhood were also forced to evacuate their home after a 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck five miles north of Brawley around 2 p.m.
Twenty mobile homes were shifted from their foundations, affecting a number of families, according to Peinado.
Staff at the Emergency Operations Center worked with the American Red Cross to help open a local shelter for the families affected by the quake, said Peinado.
The shelter will be established at the Imperial Valley College gymnasium.
Sixteen fire stations responded to Brawley to help assess the extent of earthquake damages.
Among the stations responding, two were strike teams from Riverside and San Diego counties, explained Peinado.
With earthquakes not unusual for the Southern California region, National Earthquake Information Center geophysicist Paul Caruso reflected on the history of earthquakes in the Brawley region.
“It looks like in 2010 there were a swarm in that area,” Caruso said.
The largest recorded earthquake near the city of Brawley was a 6.9-magnitude quake that rumbled through the city in 1940, Caruso explained.
“That’s the biggest one in that vicinity,” he said.
As many quakes continued to shake Brawley and surrounding areas, Caruso explained that the San Andreas fault line is an active fault system, which produces swarms of earthquakes.
“Several good shakers down there,” he said.
With the Southern California Earthquake Center having reported the likelihood of more 5.5-magnitude earthquakes to come in the 24 hours after Sunday’s quakes, residents are being asked to take precautions.
“Do not try to run out of buildings while shaking is occurring because you never know what is falling off the roof or people could be knocked down by quakes,” Caruso said.
He also advised that people dive under desks or tables and wait until shaking stops and then go outside.
No deaths or critical injuries have been reported and residents are being advised to contact 760-351-2686 if they have any questions, according to a press release from Peinado.
Further information will be updated on the Imperial County Emergency Medical Services Agency’s Facebook page and the Imperial County Public Health Department’s Facebook page as more details are released.
Staff writer Celeste Alvarez can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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