'This Town Can't Handle Any More': Ridgecrest Residents Reflect After Back-to-Back Earthquakes

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Terry Brantley looks at his neighbor's home after it burnt down in an electrical fire following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Ridgecrest, California, on July 6, 2019. Brantley said he and his wife had spent the day cleaning up from the 6.4 quake on July 4 when the July 5 quake hit, severely damaging their home. ( ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Darren Cloyd was in his car when he noticed the car began to shake. He thought it was his stereo until he looked outside and saw everything swaying side to side.

“No exaggeration, it rolled for at least three to four minutes straight,” he said. It was the strongest earthquake he has ever witnessed.

Such were the stories from Ridgecrest on Saturday after Friday night's 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Already shaken by Thursday's 6.4 magnitude quake — now considered a foreshock — the town in the Mojave Desert was surprised by the event.

Cloyd still offered some reassurance: “We shake, rattle and roll with it. But we are built tough.”

Shannon Hilla was working at a bar in Ridgecrest when Friday night’s quake hit. On Saturday morning, he was riding his bike around, trying to buy water and checking on friends. (Saul Gonzalez/KQED)

Shannon Hilla found closed stores and damaged buildings with bricks falling off when he went out in search for a store to stock up on water on Saturday.

“They’re shaken up, rattled, probably wondering if it’s going to happen again," he said about his community. "[They are] probably scared. I don’t see that many people.”

Earthquakes in California

Hilla, who works at a bar, saw mirrors, signs, glasses and alcohol hit the ground during the shaking. People ran outside and sat down on the ground, and eventually police showed up to make sure there was no one injured.

His boss told him not to show up back at work until they figure out how to take care of the damage.

In another part of town, Kerry Fairchield was loading up his car with groceries outside a supermarket. After taking care of gathering bottled water and other basic needs, he planned on sitting and waiting for another potentially large earthquake that seismologists said could still hit the area over the next week.

“I don’t know what else you can do. There’s no way you can predict when the next aftershock is going to happen," he said. "So we [are] just [going to] gather together and try to clean up the mess that’s already there.”

Fairchield said most of his house was hardly damaged. Only a wardrobe crashed, and pictures fell off the wall.

After the earthquake hit, Sharon Wisnewsky took her dog and three cats into her car where they spent the night but slept little.

With her dog’s agitated breath and her cats’ meows sounding louder than her tired voice, she was now on her way to a friend’s house to finally get a few hours of sleep. She hopes her pets will calm down as well.

“I don’t think I can handle another big one; I’m ready to leave,” she said when asked if she was mentally prepared for another earthquake. “Last night was enough, and I am hoping we don’t have another big one because I don’t think this town can handle any more.”

Tiny Clark, who has lived in Ridgecrest for 50 years, said this earthquake has been the biggest one he has ever experienced. After the shock, Clark, along with his wife and grandson, cleaned up the mess it left behind.

His family and neighbors gathered outside and began checking utilities and turning off pipes which could cause a dangerous accident. He said his neighborhood was somewhat empty on Saturday morning as many people left or opted to camp in trailer homes.

Clark emphasized that people have to remember that mountains come from earthquakes and the earth constantly changing its shape.

"It is what it is," he said. "You live in the desert. We’ll clean up and rebuild. This is our home.”

The desert region has held out remarkably well given the quakes’ magnitude, but some damage is clearly visible, like this buckled road in Trona. (Saul Gonzalez/KQED)