Gov. Newsom comes to Ridgecrest

Elected officials survey earthquake damage, pledge support for recovery efforts

Gov. Newsom comes to RidgecrestThe earthquakes that continue to rock Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas have prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to visit our remote community in order to evaluate the damage and help coordinate emergency response and recovery efforts.

On Friday, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, State Sen. Republican Leader Shannon Grove and Assemblyman Vince Fong joined county and local officials in surveying the damage. The city hosted Newsom and his state entourage for a similar tour today, which was followed by a press conference where media from national affiliates were on hand, along with local reporters.

“I’ve had the opportunity to show the governor, [California Office of Emergency Services] and the dignitaries who stand behind me some of what we’ve experienced,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, the first to address the crowd.

He noted that much of the impact has been internal “not just because it’s personal — for myself and the rest of our community,” but because the damages triggered by the earthquake lie beneath the surface in many cases.

“It’s hard to see from the outside.” McLaughlin said that the latest visitors have now gotten a glimpse of what Ridgecrest has been through the last few days.

“The governor called me the morning right after the quake, and said ‘What can I do? How can I help? I am here.’ I thought … those are nice political-sounding words. I will never hear or see from this man again,” said Mayor Peggy Breeden.

“Wow, was I wrong. Here he is,” she said, offering help, bringing ideas, bringing a team together that will enact the needed assistance from state agencies.

CalOES Director Mark Guilarducci said that he was already working with city and county officials to coordinate mutual aid efforts through Southern California after the 6.4-magnitude quake occurred on Thrusday, July 4. Then, when the 7.1 occurred, those efforts were accelerated to deploy assets to address the immediate public health, safety and fire-suppression issues in the aftermath.

The state office is at its highest level of activation, he said, and agencies from the local to the federal level are partnering on the effort.

“We will continue to be here for the long term,” said Guilarducci, “Transitioning from response to recovery.”

Newsom approached the podium, and told the crowd that he had just gotten off the phone with President Donald Trump. “We were reflecting on the fact that just months ago, we were battling the Camp Fire in the north, concurrently fighting the Woolsey Fire in Southern California … and now we have earthquakes.”

While the Democratic governor acknowledged that his disagreements with the Republican President are well-documented, he said the two have a common commitment on disaster relief and recovery.

“As a former mayor of San Francisco, and a fourth-generation Californian, earthquakes are familiar to me, as I think they are now to everyone around here,” he said. However, he pointed to some parallels between his Bay Area community and our remote desert.

Coming out of the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco adopted the rising phoenix for its flag because of the symbolism it represented — rising out of the ashes to become stronger and more resilient as a consequence.

“Our people are committed to each other, to a sense of community,” he said “That same level of commitment is demonstrable when you walk around this city.”

Newsom pledged support for the full recovery process. “The cameras will move on from this community here to the next natural disaster, or maybe to the next man-made disaster. This community will, I think rightfully, expect that the state of California has its back.”

Officials are working on putting together resources for people — including those without earthquake insurance, said Newsom. He also noted that unlike some disaster-caused damage, earthquake damage is not always readily apparent.

He said that California was committed, and there’s not a doubt in his mind that President Trump shares that commitment to rebuilding.

“I am here in that spirit. And in the spirit of gratitude and respect for the leadership of those behind me, and to the first responders — many of whom are having their first hot meal and who have not seen their kids.”

Stops on the tour included local businesses that have suffered damage, as well as individual homes that have been declared unlivable. The entourage also toured China Lake, which is also in the early processes of assessing damage.

“By the way — this Naval base, for those who are not familiar, is larger than any other Navy land,” he said, noting that it represents a third of all of the Navy’s landholdings worldwide.

Capt. Paul Dale, commanding officer of Naval Air Weapons Station, said that his team had just started the recovery from the 6.4 earthquake when the 7.1 hit. “We basically had to start over.”

Newsom said he knew of no economic activity more important than getting the facilities on base fixed so that people can go back to work. “I’m told 86 percent of the local economy is tied to that base.

“You want to talk about a patriotic community … a community tied to the principles of patriotism, you should come here on 9-11 when they do their remembrance with thousands of flags,” said Newsom.

He commented on the irony of the series of earthquakes kicking off on the day our nation celebrates its birth. “It happened right here, in this community that is so committed to our Armed Forces.”

In addition to the current focus on recovery efforts, Newsom said that he hoped this was an opportunity to raise the consciousness and awareness of all Californians.

“California’s beauty is defined, in many ways, by our seismology,” he said, pointing to the iconic mountain ranges that sweep the state. However, experts note that earthquakes are a normal and natural phenomenon for the region.

“I know there are people who are not sleeping well, but we have an opportunity to be more prepared, more vigilant.”

Newsom acknowledged that while a 7.1 earthquake was serious for the Ridgecrest community, an event like that in a metropolitan area would most certainly have resulted in many deaths and billions of dollars in damages.

State leaders are examining everything from home-hardening building codes to investing in early warning systems.

“We all have a unique role and responsibility to be individually prepared.”

Because first-responders cannot be everywhere in the event of a large-scale emergency, officials have warned households to equip themselves with a preparedness kit and plan to follow in the case of emergencies (for more information, see https://www.redcross.org/…/types-of-emergen…/earthquake.html).

Those looking for an assessment of property damages are encouraged to contact the city building department.

“I continue to monitor the situation and receive updates from Cal OES on the impact of both massive earthquakes,” said Grove, who opened up her office in the area this weekend (see related post, below).

“I am moved by the swift and collaborative response from local, state, and federal agencies. First responders are still evaluating the extent of the damage to commercial and residential infrastructure, but above all I am grateful to God that no lives have been reported lost,” she said.

“I appreciate Governor Newsom’s expeditious response in activating a state of emergency. This action will provide the affected region with immediate resources.

“However, our situation remains unpredictable as officials from OES indicate that we can expect more aftershocks and perhaps even another powerful quake. I urge everyone to be prepared and heed the warnings of first responders.

“Our community has really gone through it this week,” said McCarthy.

“But our first responders have been amazing — working through the night as search-and-rescue teams ensure that everyone is safe. Thankfully, no deaths have been reported. It will take time to restore power throughout Ridgecrest, and it will take even more time to assess all the damage. I have been on the ground working with local officials and the Governor’s office. Governor Newsom’s request for a Presidential Emergency Declaration is the right call for Kern County to get the response and recovery aid that we need.”

“Immediately following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake I headed to the Kern County Emergency Operation Center in Bakersfield where I witnessed impressive communication and collaboration amongst our first responders and emergency providers,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong. “This is an uneasy time for our neighbors and community, but I assure you Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas are not alone, and we will continue to provide the support necessary to ensure residents can move forward. Our priority is to make sure all necessary resources and services are available to the Indian Wells Valley.”

Story First Published: 2019-07-06