Ridgecrest: 1 Year Later

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It’s been one full year since two major earthquakes rocked Ridgecrest and the surrounding area.

After recovering from magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes, now they’ve been shaken by coronavirus.

“It’s been a bad year,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief, Jed McLaughlin.

By March, Ridgecrest was almost done rebuilding after the earthquakes. Every structure was either repaired or in the process of being repaired. But then, the global pandemic hit.

“It’s like being hit tenfold,” McLaughlin said. “With all the aftershocks we’ve had, some of those cracks have spread.”

COVID has since stalled construction and delayed reimbursements.

Ridgecrest already didn’t qualify for federal aid since it didn’t suffer the minimum $50 million in damage. Therefore, repairs cost the city several million dollars from its own reserves. One year later, the City of Ridgecrest still is waiting for hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements from the state.

Ridgecrest’s only hospital suffered a similar financial blow, also receiving no federal aid.

“We are starting to get run down a little bit between the COVID pandemic and then the earthquakes and every subsequent earthquake. How much more can we take?” added Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO, Jim Suver.

The hospital already saw $2 million in damage from the earthquakes, then add $7 million in unreimbursed expenses from coronavirus after helping the county fund a COVID testing site.

“We are dipping into our reserves that we used to expand services and replace equipment,” Suver explained.

COVID also touched many local businesses, forcing Casey’s Steakhouse and Triple T’s Tavern to close permanently.

“What is the impact devastating? No. Was it minimal? Absolutely not, and it all depends on each individual business,” said Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden.

However, Chief McLaughlin added, “the businesses that were struggling, people continued to purchase from them, whether it was trying to buy gift cards.”

So while the city hopes to see a light at the end of this very difficult year, frequent aftershocks keep them on edge. Back in June, a magnitude 5.5 hit while Ridgecrest City Council was in session.

“All we can do is react to some, prepare for others,” Mayor Breeden said.

Every challenge is a reminder that the sun will rise again, and the road to recovery is often rocky.

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