The sprawling yet secluded Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was evacuated and deemed not “mission capable” after Friday’s magnitude 7.1 earthquake.
The temblor, which caused no deaths in the remote area that includes a few small towns, was epicentered within China Lake territory, north of the city of Ridgecrest.
After the magnitude 6.4 quake on the Fourth of July, which turned out to be a foreshock, the base was being assessed for damage. After the 7.1, the base posted on its Facebook page that “NAWS China Lake is not mission capable until further notice; however, security protocols remain in effect.”
“Safety of personnel is currently the highest priority,” the post continued. “NON ESSENTIAL active duty, drilling reservists, civilian employees, and dependents are authorized to evacuate to a radius of 100 miles from safe haven Naval Base Ventura County (NVBC). NVBC and its surrounding area is the preferred location for authorized evacuation on the basis of Installation Support Services.”
“NAWS China Lake access remains Mission Essential Personnel only. Do NOT attempt to access the Installation unless you are Mission Essential Personnel.”
The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division land test range is located at China Lake, with scientists conducting work in “high-tech areas including battlespace integration, airborne electronic attack, aircraft survivability, counter-improvised explosive devices, directed energy, robotics, energetics and more.”
China Lake is larger than Rhode Island and accounts for 85 percent of the total land used by the Navy for weapons research, development and testing. There are more than 2,100 buildings within the 1.1 million acre Mojave Desert property, and its 19,600 square miles of airspace is tightly controlled.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Saturday that there is a 2 percent chance over this week of “one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 7.1.”
“It is likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next one week, with 220 to 330 magnitude 3 or higher aftershocks,” the statement continued. “…The forecast changes as time passes due to decline in the frequency of aftershocks, larger aftershocks that may trigger further earthquakes, and changes in forecast modeling based on the data collected for this earthquake sequence.”
USGS scientists are on the ground assessing the area, a process expected to take weeks to months.
“The assessment includes canvassing the impacted area for fault displacements, including offsets in roads or curbs and distortion in pipelines, as well as damage to structures,” USGS said. “This research will help the group understand how the earthquake worked, which faults broke during the earthquake and the extent of the faulting and surface displacement.”