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Ridgecrest-area residents wracked by uncertainty after 2 quakes

RIDGECREST, Calif. — Much of Antoun Abdullatif’s inventory has tilted over on shelves or collapsed onto the sticky floor, a shuffled mess of glass bottles, chips, household products and other items sold regularly at Eastridge Market.

After Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake, the self-described “very ambitious” shop owner is optimistic that he can recoup within a few months the estimated $100,000 in losses.

But he is also mopping up more slowly than he did Thursday, when he did not hesitate to restore broken inventory following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake also near Ridgecrest. He has heard there is a slim chance an even bigger temblor could strike: “I’m praying to God it will not happen.”

After two straight days of ground shaking, including the largest earthquake in Southern California in two decades, residents in this desert community about 235 miles southwest of Las Vegas have been forced to reckon with an anxiety-stirring prospect — they don’t know what to expect next.

“The 6.4 rattled people,” said Mimi Teller, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. “The 7.1 threw them over the edge.”

A disaster relief center has been established since Thursday night inside a city community center at Ridgecrest’s Freedom Park, where roughly 160 people had registered for aid by 10 a.m. Saturday, a number that had doubled by the evening. About 80 slept the night before in cots set up in a gymnasium, according to Teller.

Beyond a place to sleep, the pet-friendly location offers food, showers, mental health help and basic medical services, although Teller said only a few have used them, for scrapes and bruises.

“It’s a combination of people who are afraid, or have damage to their homes, or want a sense of community,” she said about the clientele.

Amid a declared state of emergency, there have been no reported deaths or major injuries. Still, there is plenty of uncertainty.

April Hamlin, 47, was watching the news with her three teenage children on two twin beds pushed together when she felt a rumble Friday night. Since the region has experienced an onslaught of aftershocks in the wake of the first earthquake, she was not immediately alarmed.

“It kept intensifying. It would not stop,” she said from inside the shelter, feeding Cheez-It crackers to a Saint Bernard named Duchess and recalling how her television fell from its stand and hung by a cord. “The whole city went dark.”

While power was since restored, the household belongings remain spilled all about — including in a food pantry. Her daughter, who has medical issues, missed an appointment at Loma Linda University Medical Hospital. Hamlin, who has lived in Ridgecrest her entire life, now worries there may be cracks in her home’s foundation.

“I’ve felt earthquakes before — you know, a sharp jolt,” she said. “But nothing like (this).”

For Amina Jackson, a 37-year-old mother of four, a move from New York perhaps could not have occurred at a more inopportune time. Jackson relocated to Trona, a tiny community about 25 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, on Thursday.

After two days of major temblors, Jackson and her family sat in the shelter as she reflected on a logjam to leave Trona on Friday night. A swell of commuters converged for hours at California state Route 178, the only pathway to Ridgecrest, to discover it had closed because boulders fell into the roadway.

On Saturday, visible cracks stretched across the pavement on Route 178. Others had been patched by the California Department of Transportation, which approved a $3 million project for emergency permanent repairs on two sections of the road, according to officials. Fissures and displacements in the asphalt drew onlookers who pulled over to the roadside to stare at the deformities.

Meanwhile, crews were working Saturday on restoring power and water to affected residents in Trona following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake, and a shaken Jackson was mulling her options.

“I’m not going back out there,” she said later, shaking her head as she arrived at a conclusion. “Give me my (rent) money back. I’m not going out there.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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