Trona recovery progresses

Trona recovery progressesBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

“You guys have water today,” announced Searles Domestic Water Co. Manager Audrey Schuyler during a Trona Town Hall on July 10. “I’m very happy to report that.”

Hundreds of Searles Valley residents, still reeling from the 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes earlier this month, packed the Trona High School Gym where they heard from San Bernardino County, state and federal representatives as well as officials representing public health, tax, construction, insurance and emergency services.

“We still have some smaller leaks to button up,” said Schuyler, who urged residents to keep an eye out for and report any leaks. The water company’s office was declared unsafe and red tagged – like many buildings in the area – and is closed. The temporary office can be reached at 760-372-2991.

When the first big quake hit on July 4, it left some Searles Valley residents without water for almost a week. Good samaritans from nearby communities and relief organizations have been delivering a steady stream of drinking water and other supplies to Trona. But for days, residents still had no water for laundry, bathing or cooling.

Residents were advised to boil any water used for consumption, however the boil notice was lifted on July 17.

Another obstacle for Searles Valley residents is the temporary closure of the post office. While mail is still being delivered to Trona, customers must retrieve P.O. Box mail from the Ridgecrest Post Office (800-275-8777). “We apologize for this inconvenience to our customers and hope to have this office reopened and fully operational again as soon as possible.”

Although the Local Assistance Center closed on Friday, a Recovery Center opened at 13207 Jones St.

The Trona Library will also be open daily as a cooling center.

Residents were largely appreciative of the information and availability of services, but one question from the public was “why did it take three days for any help to get to us?”

San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood responded and said that county officials were working behind the scenes to restore services immediately following the quakes.

San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Mike Horton added that homebound members of the community were encouraged to put up “food,” “water” or “help” signs in their windows as Senior Care Center (760-382-7575) officials would be patrolling the community for residents in need of assistance.

Horton added that the fire department and code enforcement would be working to address the “very long list” of condemned and derelict buildings, made longer by the earthquakes, and expedite the removal process.

San Bernardino County Emergency Services Manager Michael Antonucci said that with an official declaration of a disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency would begin a damages assessment of the Searles Valley area on Friday, after which Trona and the surrounding areas would be eligible for government relief funds.

In the meantime, Trona continues to rely on the kindness of its neighbors. Casa Corona of Ridgecrest travelled to the Town Hall to offer free lunch for more than 400 people after the meeting. See our community section for how other volunteers are contributing the earthquake relief efforts.

Another one of the red-tagged buildings was Esparza Family Restaurant – one of the few eateries in the area. Community members expressed their dismay when they heard the restaurant will likely be unable to reopen after the disaster.

“We have been a part of this wonderful community for over 15 years and we have enjoyed every part of it,” announced the restaurant on its Facebook page. “But it comes with a heavy heart that we will no longer be able to open our doors due to extensive damage from these earthquakes that devastated our lovely town.”

A fundraiser has since been started to raise $5,000 toward reestablishment. The fundraiser can can be found at gofundme.com/f/esparza-family-restaurant.

Story First Published: 2019-07-11