RIDGECREST — A Town Hall meeting held Sunday afternoon started with a calm but serious bit of instruction about keeping the aisles clear and how to exit safely in the case of another quake.
Once that was out of the way, a string of speakers spelled out plans for what everyone is hoping is now a recovery phase after the two historic Ridgecrest earthquakes July 4 and 5 — while also remaining prepared for possible future quakes.
Emphasizing the ongoing nature of the problem were a couple of aftershocks during the meeting itself.
"We are still not out of the woods. We don't know what Mother Nature is thinking," Kern County First District Supervisor Mick Gleason told the crowd.
Ridgecrest Chief of Police Jed McLaughlin said the city is now transitioning to recovery mode.
McLaughlin noted big question everyone is asking: "Where do we go from here?"
McLaughlin said RPD received 500 calls from July 4 to 6 and that there were two incidents of theft/looting.
He added that the city's emphasis at this point is helping people become comfortable enough to go back into their homes and offices.
The California Office of Emergency Services announced as well that it is transitioning from response to recovery mode.
Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, pledged his support to the area.
"We are a family and we take care of each other," Fong said.
Fong promised ongoing support, for as long as necessary.
"This community is very important to me. This community has always supported the military and I have no doubt you will rise to the occasion," he said.
Tracey Reynolds spoke on behalf of Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, thanking first responders and Ridgecrest governmental leaders. She said Groves' office is providing many services.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy's representative Clayton Fowler also pledged the support of the congressman from Bakersfield. McCarthy, Fong and Grove toured Ridgecrest and China Lake looking at damage from the first quake. They left town before the 7.1 magnitude quake Friday night.
Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden was the final speaker.
"I can't say thank you enough. We are an amazing community," Breeden said.
She suggested people give relatives out of the area their neighbors' phone numbers and check on neighbors four houses down on either side.
Breeden also urged everyone who needs help to speak out, noting that the city has received a donation of $50,000 to help earthquake victims with needs not covered by insurance.
Breeden ended her speech on an upbeat note.
"Ridgecrest Rocks!" she said, raising her arm.
A representative from NAWS China Lake reported that only mission-essential personnel currently have access.
Marley's Miracle Mutts talked about helping displaced kids and pets.
A representative from Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services also spoke.
"This is a crisis," he said. "You don't look as panicked as I felt coming in here."
He gave out the following number: 800-991-5272 for a crisis line.
A representative from PGE, which provides gas service to Ridgecrest, also spoke. He said PG&E has found no major customer impacts and found and repaired a few leaks.
He said this remains an active situation and that PG&E is evaluating stress factors on pipes, but thinks the situation is currently safe and is planning to survey every service to every house.
The Town Hall meeting concluded without another major earthquake