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Convenience store cleans up mess from first earthquake, only have to do it all over again

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Wine bottles knocked over and off shelves at Ridgecrest store.
(AP)

Javaid Waseem, 45, his workers and volunteers had made real progress Friday night cleaning up the mess that a 6.4 earthquake had made at his convenience store in Ridgecrest.

The unbroken wine bottles were back in place, the motor oil had been wiped away, and the shelves were lined up once again inside the refrigerators.

The 7.1 earthquake sent everything flying once again. This time, he said, “we lost a lot more.”

On Saturday morning, between asking customers how they were doing, ringing up orders, and surveying the damage, Waseem worried that yet another quake would strike. “We can’t afford another one, but with Mother Nature, we don’t know,” he said.

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The Friday night quake was intensely felt in Ridgecrest, but there were no major injuries and only modest damage.

Still, say impacted residents, the question was what to do next.

Kathy Vander Houwen, 76, was distraught Saturday morning after a county worker placed a yellow tag on her mobile home in Ridgecrest.

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The home had shifted on its foundation, pulling more than a foot away from its original location, and the county worker had determined that it wasn’t safe.

Vander Houwen knew she would have to leave, but she had not been able to find her two cats, Snuggles and Frisky, since the 7.1 earthquake the night before.

She is a widow, and her children no longer live nearby. Her cats are like family, she said.

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“They can tell when I’m in pain or if I’m not feeling well,” she said. “They’re the love of my life, and I need to get them out.”

Minutes later, Vander Houwen cried out with joy when her best friend, Claire Barker, 76, emerged from the home to let her know the cats had been found and were in their kennels. The two friends, who have known each other for 47 years, put their arms around each other and breathed sighs of relief.

Next, Vander Houwen said she would pack her clothes, food and other supplies to take to Barker’s nearby mobile home, where she would be staying for the near term.

They have helped each other through the most difficult times of their lives, Vander Houwen said.

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And she was grateful for her friend. “I don’t what I’d do without her,” she said. But she had no idea what would happen over the long term. “This place is paid for,” Vander Houwen said. “I’m too old to start over again.”

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On the corner of Reeves Avenue in the South China Lake trailer park, the remains of a mobile home were charred from the fire that burned most of it down last night. On the side porch, a couple women’s dresses, shades of pink and purple, still hung from hangers. In front of the house, a child’s bike helmet lay strewn across the front lawn next to deflated basketballs. Two cars, one melted and destroyed from the flames, were still parked in the driveway.

Next door, Bob Bloudeck, 70, was cleaning up his mobile home of everything that had fallen from his walls night before. He limped while he carried out the trash. He had been in his house with his 8-year old granddaughter when the mobile home next to his caught fire sometime during or after the earthquake, he said. Friday’s temblor had seriously scared both of them. “It was shaking so hard, I couldn’t get out of my chair,” Bloudeck said. “My granddaughter jumped into my lap and told me that she wanted mommy and daddy.”

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Shortly after the shaking was over, he went outside to see that a fire had erupted in the house next door. Several neighbors rallied to stop the flames — they didn’t know if the family, who has several kids, was still inside. “We broke some of the windows of the house before the firemen came,” Bloudeck said. “We threw shovels and a fire extinguisher that wasn’t working through their windows.” Eventually, the firemen came and confirmed that no one was in the house.

Bloudeck has no plans to move from his mobile home where he has lived for three years. “I haven’t even thought about that,” he said. He has been a resident of Ridgecrest for thirty years and has felt many earthquakes in his time, he said, but never one as strong — or as scary — as this one.


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