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Ridgecrest shifts into ‘recovery mode’ as aftershocks continue

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RIDGECREST, Calif. -- Sixty-three people were staying at a Red Cross shelter in Ridgecrest Monday in the wake of two large earthquakes that struck California, officials said.

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Thursday morning about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. It was followed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake nearby -- about 11 miles northeast of Ridgecrest -- Friday night. Widespread damage and injuries were reported following the 7.1 quake.

More than 500 people had registered at the shelter since the first earthquake struck the area on July 4, officials told FOX 5. By Sunday night, 63 people remained inside the shelter, with others staying in their cars in its parking lot and in tents at a community park nearby.

"People are coming here for three different reasons," Mimi Teller with American Red Cross said. "Some have property damage that hasn't been fully assessed either by them or any authorities. Some of them have incredibly rattled nerves, two back-to-back big earthquakes in addition to thousands of small aftershocks. And some people just came here for a sense of community. Some people live alone, and it was scary for them. They've developed new families here."

Michelle Hewitt said she was visiting a friend in Ridgecrest when the earthquakes struck. "It looks like it was picked up and thrown back on the ground, like a hurricane went through it," she said of her friend's house. "It's horrible."

Hewitt said the damage to the house was enough to convince her friend to stay at a shelter. Meanwhile, Hewitt has been sleeping in her car. "My friends' family live in other states. Other friends' families don't have anybody," she said.

Aftershocks from the earthquakes continued into Monday morning, at which time officials said they had transitioned from the initial "response phase" into "recovery mode."

Meanwhile, the Red Cross shelter "will remain open until all of our clients and all of our residents have found a safe, proper place to live," Teller said.

With earthquake events top of mind for many Californians, Teller offered some advice on how to prepare for future quakes. "It's very easy to become complacent. Hopefully this is a good wake-up call," she said. "We urge everybody to be prepared. Have enough water and food for three days, make a family plan, keep sneakers by your bed, and when it hits: duck, cover and hold."

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