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California's governor says President Trump committed to help. Speaking to reporters after touring the damage zone, Gavin Newsom said California must "be prepared for the next earthquake of magnitude even greater than 7.1." (July 6)
     AP, AP

TRONA, Calif. The greatest earthquake to hit California in two decades was one of the smallest, ever-increasing targets in the state as a prime target.

Every bit as much as Ridgecrest some 30 miles away, Trona, a town struggle to halt its downward decline, Drill down the two-fisted earthquake – first a 6.4 magnitude punch on the Fourth of July, then a giant 7.1 magnitude blow Friday night, with many large aftershocks in between.

Rock slides closed roads, cutting off the population of about 1,500. Electricity was lost, then restored. Drinking water was lost and being trucked in, with nothing more important with temperatures hovering in the 90s.

Bernard Brush steps over a new crack from the 7.1 M quake on Friday near the Old Guest House Museum in Trona, Calif. on Saturday July 6, 2019. (Photo: Juan Carlo, Ventura County Star via USA TODAY Network)

To many of residents of tiny Trona, the quake was a knockout. Even if they escaped the top chimneys, broken kitchen crockery – or worse – of their neighbors, the town's residents are left with streets and sidewalks with webs of cracks that look from above as many spider veins.

Even before the quake, Trona was a city that appeared to be hanging from its fingernails, retaining a single processing plant, Searles Valley Minerals, which makes products like soda ash and borax. More than a century old, the plant is still the reason the town exists. On Saturday, the post-quake of the sprawling facility was yet to be published. A security officer guarding the plant said he couldn't comment

"It's tragic," said Margaret Brush, who, at 91, believes she is Trona's oldest lifelong resident. "I hope this is not the end."

And the quake comes as the town's more active citizens were trying to stage a civil comeback that would include a lush new park, community center and a cleanup campaign called "Trona Care . " Residents already have several buildings in museums celebrating their colorful past through borax and other minerals, a direct connection to Death Valley about 80 miles away by car.

It would be no easy comeback. Many of the Trona area homes are abandoned – windowless hulks stripped of anything usable. Residents say that they have been besieged by squatters and sometimes empty houses are torched. The air around the plant is pungent with sulfur.

'Scared to death': 7.1 earthquake follows 6.4, leaving residents fearful, resilient

What does home insurance cover after a disaster?

Those who say they stay in Trona because it's a bargain. Mike Ashford, 57, arrived after he retired from the military. He can be bought in Trona or next-door Argus for as little as $ 15,000.

But with some residents living on fixed income or margins of society, the quake creates a crisis.

On Saturday morning, Jamie L. Acevedo, 42, was sitting outside her home with son Jeremy Chute, 17, and daughter Sammy Chute, 15, their dogs Misha and Petey and their cats Aries and Kiki. They're moving because the home destroyed their home, knocking it off its foundation.

"I didn't expect my home to come out from under me," said Acevedo.

The family was so spooked by the experience that they camped out in the front yard Friday night. They hope to hitch a ride to live outside Trona with relatives, uncertain if they can return.

Trucker Randy Witherell, 60, has no plans to leave. He loves Trona and his home, built in 1917 to house company executives, and still kept cool by asbestos shingles. He has even researched his history and can produce articles with pictures of the home from his heyday.

But the quake took its toll. The bricks deck for the patio buckled. Tremors dew a hole around the gas meter, which Witherell was having inspected. He can point to the quake created undulations in the road in front of his house and recall how the temblor was so powerful that it moved his truck 3 feet. His biggest problem, however, is the chimney.

"The whole of the chimney came off," Witherell said. "If we have another quake, I'm not going to have a house."

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A magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southern California on Friday night,
just a day after the region hit with a magnitude 6.4 quake.
     USA TODAY

As a community, however, Trona is reeling from damage to its Old Guest House Museum, a former apartment across the street from a mineral plant that depicts the town's early mining days. While the exhibits appeared to be largely intact, despite some items being knocked to the floor, the exterior has some major damage. Besides gaping cracks in the concrete apron, there's a 5-inch chasm that runs along its eastern side. On the western side, some bricks were knocked out of a mural depicting the town's history.

Debra Wright, 64, who has been throwing herself into civic activities since retiring from a job at the nearby China Lake military installation, stopped by to "We are devastated. We could lose this building," Wright said. She lamented that quake comes as the town was on an upswing in a burst of town pride.

"We've been working so hard to rebuild."

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