EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Mark and Karen Welch went to southern California last week to visit with their son, Luke.

They had no idea that they would be part of one of the biggest news stories in the country. Yet, in the span of about 24 hours, they were witnesses to the two largest earthquakes that state has experienced in about two decades.

Friday night, the Welches were having dinner at a restaurant not far from son Luke's apartment when the earth rumbled for the second time in two days.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake Friday night measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, following a 6.4 quake Thursday, both of which originated near the community of Ridgecrest.

Ridgecrest is about 150 miles from El Segundo, a suburb of Los Angeles.

"We definitely saw a chandelier above us swinging, so that was our signal to get out of there," Mark said, noting that once everyone had returned to Luke's apartment, they went to the USGS website to see what the quake registered.

"At first, they were saying 6.9. Then they upped it to 7.1 and we were like, 'Wow!'

Mark said Luke, 30, has been in El Segundo since January, having moved from Houston, Texas. Luke is a safety official with a refinery owned by Chevron.

"We came out here to check off some (personal history) boxes. We sure didn't expect this," Mark said Friday night in a phone interview.

Reports from media outlets say that no deaths resulted from either Ridgecrest quake and, with Ridgecrest being fairly rural in its makeup, damage was minimized, except for several fires that were caused by ruptured gas lines.

Mark said the difference in the two quakes was very noticeable.

"I could tell that this was much stronger. The first one had lasted about 15 to 20 seconds. The second one was well over 30 seconds," he said of how he, Karen and Luke were inside eating restaurants for both quakes.

"Yeah, we were in a little coffee shop for the first one (on Thursday) and it was a deal where the building we were in just kind of started undulating and I remember wondering to myself, 'Well who's jumping up and down next to our table?' Then you realize that we're on a concrete floor, so it can't be that.

"Pretty quickly, you had people saying, 'Oh my God! It's an earthquake!' I actually have experienced one before, and that was several years ago in Union City (Tennessee), but these were stronger, a lot stronger, than that one. From what I've seen, you really don't start feeling a quake until it's at 6.0 or higher. Boy, we felt these!"

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