Return to Ridgecrest: The road to recovery

Return to Ridgecrest

RIDGECREST, Calif. (KGET)—It’s been six months since magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes shook Ridgecrest to the core.

Located about two hours northeast of Bakersfield with a population of about 27,000, it’s a city of many people who say they feel forgotten.

For Bridget Scoggan, the trauma of the temblors haunts her every day.

Her mobile home at Trousdale Estates was completely destroyed.

“I was inside the house when it collapsed to the side,” she recalled. “It was going to be mine. I was buying it to own it.”

It’s now rocked beyond repair. Her furniture and almost all her belongings had to be left behind.

“The floor jacks came up from the ground. There’s big cracks on the wall and the ceiling,” she said. “It really hurts.”

Unfortunately, she’s not alone.

“There’s 30 mobile homes here in this park alone that went down, and people had to sign it over because there was no help,” Scoggan said.

Aid to Ridgecrest came and went as quickly as the earthquakes.

“We get reimbursed 75 percent of the cost to repair the infrastructure side of the city. Federally, nothing,” explained Ridgecrest Police Chief, Jed McLaughlin.

Federally, a city needs to suffer at least $50 million in damage to get aid. Ridgecrest did not.

“Total destruction really,” McLaughlin said. “Just because we didn’t meet that, it’s almost like a punishment that we didn’t.”

While public structures like roads and walls were fixed with money from the state, homes like Scoggan’s were not. Some small businesses were forced to close due to damage.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” McLaughlin said. “Being a rural community like us, I think the government should take that into consideration.”

“Rather than say, ‘you only had X million dollars worth of damage and you should’ve had Y,’ we said it should be based on the damage we have. That’s what we’re paying those taxes for,” said Ridgecrest mayor Peggy Breeden.

It was the same dilemma of aid for the city’s only hospital.

“We had a lot of support in the way of people arranging for resources for us, but we’ve gotten no financial support from anybody,” explained Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO, Jim Suver.

Hit with a quarter-million dollars in water damage and no federal aid, the hospital had to take the money out of its reserves.

“It’s pretty much equal to a year’s worth of income,” Suver said. “We had to take it out of other programs that actually would’ve benefitted patient care in our community.”

Among those planned programs were a new emergency room and expanded mental health services, especially for people still suffering from earthquake PTSD.

Since July, there have been thousands of aftershocks, including hundreds strong enough to be felt, and dozens exceeding magnitude 3.0.

“Maybe to you it’s just a little one, but to me, it means I could either lose my home or give me a heart attack,” Scoggan said.

Despite the constant shaking, this isn’t rock bottom for Ridgecrest.

This community has found ways to lift each other up.

The local Lions Club is just one of many organizations that came together after the earthquakes.

With $60,000 from individual donors, the club helped house nearly 50 displaced families.

It partnered with the Grace Lutheran Church to buy Scoggan a new mobile home.

“We had people coming in and dropping off food. We had people dropping off water,” said Ridgecrest Lions Club member, Stephen Birdwell. “It’s nice to know that a town can actually come together no matter what. Religion, everything aside, they just put everything down.”

“Without them, I would not even have this. I would literally be in a dining room on an air mattress–or out on the streets,” Scoggan said.

As unfortunate as her situation is, Scoggan is one of the lucky ones.

“There’s a lot of people still suffering–a lot of people that are still homeless that can’t even afford motels anymore because the aid has stopped,” Scoggan added.

Six months after the earthquakes, a lot still needs fixing in Ridgecrest. However, the sentiment of resilience remains strong.

Mayor Breeden summed it up, “We take care of ourselves first. We can ask for help, we can seek other assistance, but everybody knows that we stand together. Ridgecrest rocks. We’ve said that over and over again.”

“Don’t forget Ridgecrest,” Scoggan said. “We may be a small town, but people are suffering still, and they need help.”

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