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Rattled residents clean up, officials eye damage after California quakes

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Visitors cross Highway 178 next to a crack left on the road by an earthquake on Sunday near Ridgecrest, Calif.

LOS ANGELES >> Rattled residents cleaned up and officials assessed damage today from two of the biggest earthquakes to shake California in decades as scientists warned that both should serve as a wake-up call to be ready when the long-dreaded “Big One” strikes.

It could be several more days before water service is restored to the desert town of Trona, where officials trucked in portable toilets and showers, said San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert.

Ten residences in Trona were red-tagged as uninhabitable and officials expect that number to rise as inspectors complete surveys. Wert said he’s seen homes that shifted 6 feet off their foundations.

Electricity was restored to Trona over the weekend, allowing people to use much-needed air conditioners as daytime temperatures approached 100 degrees.

Teams will need several more days to finish assessments in nearby Ridgecrest, where the number of damaged buildings will likely be in the dozens, Kern County spokeswoman Megan Person said.

There were 100 people at Ridgecrest’s main shelter as of Sunday afternoon, Person said. Another 43 evacuees were camped out on a lawn outside, afraid to go indoors. Person says officials are bringing in counselors to help residents still on edge as aftershocks rattle the area.

“You can’t feel every single one, but you can feel a lot of them,” she said. “Those poor people have been dealing with shaking ground non-stop since Thursday.”

A dozen small earthquakes, each more than a magnitude 3, rattled the area overnight, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

They were among about 3,000 aftershocks following the magnitude 6.4 earthquake Thursday and a magnitude 7.1 quake Friday centered near Ridgecrest, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) from Los Angeles.

California is spending more than $16 million to install thousands of quake-detecting sensors statewide that officials say will give utilities and trains precious seconds to shut down before the shaking starts.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said it’s time residents did their part by mapping out emergency escape routes and preparing earthquake kits with food, water, lights and other necessities.

“It is a wake-up call for the rest of the state and other parts of the nation, frankly,” Newsom said at a weekend news conference on efforts to help the desert region.

Seismologists said a similar-sized quake in a major city such as San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego could collapse bridges, buildings and freeways, as well as spark devastating fires fueled by ruptured gas lines.

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