Ridgecrest Town Hall outlines path toward recovery

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Ridgecrest Town Hall outlines path toward recovery“Where do we go from here?”

With these words, Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, who has served as incident commander for the destructive 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes, opened a July 7 Town Hall to address how agencies were partnering on the path to recovery.

“This has been, I know, a difficult time for each and every one of you,” said McLaughlin. “It had to be — it was a difficult time for myself and my family, for each and every one of the officers standing around this room and their families.

“We’ve done what we could to protect you from the criminal element, and I think we’ve done a good job.” Multiple agencies came to the aid of the Ridgecrest, Trona and Inyokern communities, he said. “The dedicated men and women around this room, wearing whatever color uniform, are here for you and will remain as long as we need them.

“But now, it’s time to start recovery. It’s not only our job to protect you, but to help you get back to some normal way of life.”

Nearly two weeks after that day, the population of the Red Cross shelter at Kerr McGee Center is slowly dwindling. Fewer people are sleeping in their yards, and most people are expected to be at work by next week.

Inspectors at City Hall (quakedamage@ridgecrest-ca.gov) have cut through a queue of more than 1,000 requests. Contractors are already beginning to make the rounds to conduct repairs.

In addition to addressing property, McLaughlin urged people to monitor their mental and emotional health.

“We have teams coming in that will help us with that … getting help, getting that extra push we need to get back to a normal life.”

Finally, he urged residents to spend the coming days in preparing for “the next one.” The rule of thumb is having supplies to shelter in place for up to 72 hours after disaster strikes.

Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason said he was glad to see so many engaged in the process. “It’s difficult to see the damage driving down the boulevard, but we know it’s there when you open the door. We know that and we are communicating that to the proper authorities.”

He praised Mayor Peggy Breeden and McLaughlin for their action plan, as well as the many government agencies for their assistance. However, “We are still not out of the woods.”

Eric Kurtz of Pacific Gas & Electric thanked the community for the support they have shown the PG&E staff as they work around the clock to assess systems and protect the safety of the community.

He said that no major issues have been discovered, and the few leaks found have been repaired.

“I can’t say thank you enough,” said Breeden. “We have heroes in this community who have done for others before they have done for themselves.”

Chief among these, she said, is McLaughlin. “In my mind, our largest hero.”

She urged residents to check on their neighbors. She also encouraged neighbors in the event of future emergencies.

“We are extremely lucky that we did not get as much damage as we could have, and that people rallied,” said City Manager Ron Strand.

Story First Published: 2019-07-07