Ridgecrest, Trona communities still reeling from violent earthquakes as recovery efforts continue

ByRachel Brown, Sid Garcia, and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Ridgecrest, Trona communities still reeling from violent earthquakes
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Residents of Trona are still working to rebuild crumbled infrastructure after the 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake.

RIDGECREST, Calif. -- The road to recovery continued Monday after two massive earthquakes rocked the Ridgecrest area, where some residents were sleeping in tents - too traumatized from the destruction and aftershocks to sleep inside their homes.

Ridgecrest and neighboring Trona were hit hard by the magnitude 7.1 quake that rocked the remote Mojave Desert towns July 5.

The quake sparked several house fires, shut off power, snapped gas lines, cracked buildings and flooded some homes when water lines broke. Officials were still reviewing the damage to buildings.

It came a day after a magnitude 6.4 temblor hit the same patch of the desert. Officials have voiced concerns about the possibility of major aftershocks in the days and even months to come, though the chances have dwindled.

RELATED: Seismologist says more than 3,000 earthquakes recorded in Southern California since initial 6.4

The U.S. Geological Survey said Sunday there was just a 1% chance of another magnitude 7 or higher earthquake in the next week, and a rising possibility of no magnitude 6 quakes.

But a cluster of aftershocks were recorded in the Ridgecrest area Monday morning - keeping residents on high alert, including some who were afraid to sleep indoors.

"PTSD is a real thing, and we're all suffering from it right now," Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported after the larger quake, which jolted an area from Sacramento to Mexico and prompted the evacuation of the Navy's largest single landholding, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. The jolt was centered 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Ridgecrest.

VIDEO: Moment quake struck Ridgecrest

Roads in Ridgecrest were in good shape, electricity was back on and the water system was working, McLaughlin said. Buses in the town of 28,000 people planned to run again Monday.

USAA and State Farm organized catastrophe response teams to answer coverage questions and begin paperwork for clients.

But many in nearby Trona, a gateway for Death Valley, didn't have water, and crews were still patching up cracked roads in the town of fewer than 2,000 people.

Some residents said they've been on edge since last week.

"The first couple of nights after the (magnitude 7.1 quake), we had a tent set up right in my front yard. We've been camping basically, we're using our camping stove. We have moved back into the house, but we're all in the living room on the couches and the floors," one woman said.

Residents lined up for free water that National Guard soldiers handed out at Trona High School.

"I just picked up a couple cases for me and my dog," said Jeb Haleman, adding that his home of 40 years otherwise escaped unscathed.

Authorities warned people to be ready for aftershocks and other earthquakes, adding they may not be so lucky next time.

"Any time that we can go through a 7-point earthquake and we do not report a fatality, a major injury, do not suffer structure damage that was significant, I want to say that that was a blessing and a miracle," Kern County Fire Department spokesman Andrew Freeborn told reporters Sunday.

The damage wasn't worse largely because of how remote the area is, but Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned after touring Ridgecrest that "it's deceiving, earthquake damage. You don't notice it at first."

The Democratic governor estimated the damage at more than $100 million, and said President Donald Trump called him to offer federal support for rebuilding.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.