Businesses and homes in the Ridgecrest area suffered major structural damage during last week's earthquakes, according to preliminary assessments officials say will be followed later this week by inspections that will determine how much state and federal money will be set aside to support eastern Kern's recovery efforts.
People involved said the roof atop Ridgecrest Cinemas on Triangle Drive partially collapsed and that many of the city's smaller businesses may have to be "red-tagged," meaning they have been deemed uninhabitable.
"We have a lot of small businesses that were in the older part of town, and some of them are being inspected for possible red tags," said county economic development specialist Suzette Caufield, who on Monday helped field calls to Ridgecrest's earthquake inspections call center. "We're going to have to work hard for finding space for them to move into temporarily, if that works for them."
Meanwhile, up to 40 mobile homes and trailers have been red-tagged, said Caufield, who added some of those residences may be able to be placed back on their stands or otherwise repaired.
Overall, the scope of the area's structural damage remained sketchy three days after eastern Kern suffered a magnitude 7.1 quake Friday, one day after the area was hit by a temblor measuring 6.4.
On Monday afternoon President Donald Trump Tweeted that he has spoken with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, about the recent earthquakes and that they, along with Governor Gavin Newsom, "will be working very closely on emergency funding."
STATE, FEDERAL INSPECTIONS
A more accurate picture isn't expected until Wednesday, when state officials and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration plan to fan out across the area. Depending on what they find, federal resources may become available to businesses, homeowners and renters
"It's very early in the process to make any kind of call to say what kind of programs are going to be activated because of this," said SBA spokesman Kevin Wynne. He said his agency will recommend resources be dedicated to the area if at least 25 homes and businesses are found to have been negatively impacted by the quakes.
Some help will be available to business owners regardless, said Kelly Bearden, director of Cal State Bakersfield's Small Business Development Center. He said the office can offer business consulting services, help finding financing and assistance with disaster-aid applications.
SMALL BUSINESS HELP
Even businesses located well outside of Ridgecrest might qualify for special help, especially if their customers in eastern Kern have been hurt or there has been some kind of infrastructure problem creating disruptions.
"We can't help people who have damaged homes, but we can help the businesses, or get some level of support for them," Bearden said.
Initial inspections have begun at The Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, which has closed to everyone deemed not to be "mission-essential." Spokeswoman Helen Haase said that by Monday afternoon inspectors had reviewed about 10 percent of the base's roughly 1,200 facilities.
While she was unable to say how any of the facilities fared through the earthquakes, or how long the damage assessment might take, she did say additional personnel are coming in from outside the region to help with inspections.
Depending how bad the damage is in Ridgecrest, state-administered federal money may be deployed to help people whose workplace has been shut down, said one of Kern's top economic development specialists, Assistant County Administrative Officer Teresa Hitchcock. Individuals in that kind of scenario could be hired to help with the area's disaster recovery, she said.
"We are already working on those types of activities in order to ensure that those folks have an income," she said.