After temblors, Calif. desert residents fear worst may be ahead


JOSHUA TREE, Calif. -- When the first shock wave rolled through, Melody Mock awoke in terror.

She tried to climb out of bed to rescue her 7-year-old daughter, Natasha, in the next room, but the earthquake repeatedly forced her back.

"I've lived in California all my life and I've never felt anything like it," she said yesterday, after two violent earthquakes had swept through the area.

In the aftermath, Ms. Mock and her daughter sat outside in lawn chairs all day, riding a continuous wave of aftershocks. They're not going back inside, and Ms. Mock is convinced the terrible force will return.

"That was a baby one," she said. "There's another one coming."

She isn't the only one who believes that now.

Throughout the Southern California desert yesterday, residents thrown from their beds with the first shock at 4:58 a.m. worried about the future in this quake-prone part of the state.

"Anywhere else, you have an earthquake and some aftershocks and they die off," said Scott Keane. "Not here."

Mr. Keane, who described fleeing the first temblor as similar to walking on a water bed, was like many residents of Joshua Tree and surrounding communities who were already jittery from the previous series of quakes that rocked the area April 22.

After yesterday's twin temblors, including the strongest one measured in California since 1952, they are simply scared stiff.

"It's terrifying," said Vickkie Fregeolle, who spent yesterday standing sentinel outside the Joshua Tree Circle K store where she was supposed to be working.

The first quake separated a 3-foot portion of wall from the store's foundation, and the structure was condemned.

Down the road in Yucca Valley, elderly residents of the Country Club Mobile Home estates sat in the shade by their pool, unwilling or unable to go back inside.

"We're scared to death," said 76-year-old Gwen Upton.

Row after row of mobile homes had buckled and swayed when the earth moved yesterday morning, leaving nearly half the 100 residences uninhabitable.

"I don't think I've ever felt movement like that," said Jean Richmon.

Ms. Richmon bemoaned the loss of a lifetime of collected china and crystal, and said she'd never forget the sound as the items shattered.

Even in the three evacuation centers set up to house people stricken by the quakes, residents were still unsure about going inside to spend the night.

Lisa Mullally's Yucca Valley home was fractured by the quakes, but she still wasn't certain whether she could bring herself to sleep inside the La Contenta Junior High School gym.

"My kids are scared," she said, sitting glumly on a brick wall outside the gym. "They don't even want to take showers by themselves."

"I'm thinking about moving out of state," said Geri Lee Abernathy, also left homeless. "Maybe New York, or Puerto Rico."

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