On August 12, 2019 Supervisor Mick Gleason was addressing the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce regarding many topics critical to business in Kern County. At the forefront of everyone’s mind was the recent earthquakes that took place over the 4th of July Holiday and the days following.
Supervisor Gleason commented that Kern County rallies together during disaster, and he’s seen it time and time again. “The people of Kern County are some of the most caring and generous I have ever encountered, and they pulled together during the recent Earthquake in Ridgecrest,” stated Gleason.
Since being in office, he has seen disaster after disaster, and Kern County has always responded. First it was the Oil Crash of 2014, followed by the Financial Crisis that hit local government, then the Erskine Fire in the Kern River Valley, and now the Earthquakes in Ridgecrest and Trona.
Gleason recalled when he first received news of the 6.4 July 4 thearthquake. He was out of town for the holiday in Prescott, Arizona when his phone rang immediately following the quake. The following day the 7.1, an earthquake that was exponentially stronger, struck the region. “We were lucky the timing occurred over the holiday. School wasn’t in session; on base no major activity was occurring at the time, and none of the explosives tested frequently at the base exploded,” commented Gleason.
At first glance, the damage was underestimated, but as doors were opened and after closer observation the damage was much more extensive. Businesses lost product as it fell from shelves and shattered. Floors were covered with liquids from broken bottles requiring extensive cleanup. In all, damage was somewhat light because of the relative rural nature of the earthquake. According to Gleason, estimates place damages to the community between $3.5 and $4 billion.
Addressing a question about the earthquake insurance, Supervisor Gleason commented many businesses didn’t have insurance. “The cost for earthquake insurance is so cost prohibitive and your deductible is so high that very few residents and businesses had insurance.”
The emotional recovery will take the longest to address. Many residents are afraid to go back inside their homes. Some are sleeping outside or sleeping with their doors open out of fear that they won’t be able to get out after the next earthquake. As residents try to get back to normal, the adjustment to the emotional impacts will take time.
Mick Gleason praised the heroes from the day the—folks that made tough decisions and got it right. He recalled sitting in the Emergency Operations Center in Ridgecrest and seeing how all the first responders were reacting.
“In the midst of all this chaos, fires were getting put out, helicopters were flying to where they needed to go. Police, ambulances, and fire trucks were responding. Kern County was responding to the disaster and it was working!”
Gleason gave credit to the Ridgecrest Hospital CEO James Suver. Suver had to make the difficult decision to close the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. There was flooding in the hospital with cracking on the walls, and the CEO didn’t feel comfortable with keeping it open. All the patients had to be relocated to other hospitals in the Palmdale area. Gleason also reported that the hospital will be applying for $32 million in relief funding.
All in all, Supervisor Gleason stressed, “Kern County responded to this disaster. I am proud to live in this community.We have some of the most generous and caring people here.”