- The Magazine
- Current Issue
- Events & Shows
- Web Extras
- Yellow Pages
Wells and Fernley dealing with the consequences of nature’s wrath.
Photo: Elaine Swanson (above and below)
In less than two months’ time, two Northern Nevada towns were devastated by natural disasters. More than 300 miles separate Wells and Fernley, but both are entrenched in the aftermaths of catastrophic events that caught the respective communities sleeping, literally. Below you’ll find a recap, personal accounts, and information on how you can help.
Elaine Swanson, like any Wells citizen who was still asleep at 6:16 a.m. on February 21, will never forget her premature Thursday-morning wakeup call. “I awoke to what I thought was a sonic boom or maybe a train derailment on the tracks a half-mile away,” the Wells resident wrote in an email to Nevada Magazine. “Before those thoughts fully formed, I realized we were experiencing a crescendoing earthquake.” Had Swanson and her husband not been lying in bed, she says, “I don’t think we could have remained standing.”
Many families’ homes suffered severe structural damage. Kitchen cupboards were jarred open by the 6.0 magnitude shake, and plates and other dishes were in pieces on many citizens’ floors, Swanson reports. Three houses were destroyed, rendering the occupants homeless. Six other families are still out of their homes pending major repairs, according to Swanson.
Local building contractor Scott Egbert led a crew of LDS volunteers who spent six weekends repairing roofs and chimneys for residents who needed immediate help. “Virtually every brick chimney in town tumbled down,” Swanson says.
As bad as it is, a time of crisis never fails to bring a community together. That was apparent on April 5, when the volunteer fire department put on the Wells Earthquake Recovery Rally. The event raised $112,000, adding to a fund that to date has collected $300,000. “We’ve had our funeral,” says City Manager Jolene Supp. “It is time to dust ourselves off and move forward.”
For those who wish to offer assistance to the northeastern Nevada town—population around 1,500—call 775-752-3355. You will be guided through an automated answering service that will direct you to the appropriate individual or department. Also, an account has been established at Nevada State Bank by the City of Wells to accept donations. You can make a contribution to the “Wells, Nevada Earthquake Fund” account at any of the 71 Nevada State Bank branch locations.
For more information, visit wellsnevada.org.
Photos: The Meat Market (top) and Bullshead (above) buildings are two that suffered structural damage in the Wells earthquake on February 21.
Thousands of Fernley residents who were fast asleep at 4 a.m. on January 5 woke up to a disaster of another kind—an earthen levee along the Truckee Canal gave way, creating a 50-foot gap that sent floodwaters barreling through the northwestern Nevada town. The cause may have been different than the Wells quake, but the effect was just as jolting.
“In 10 minutes our entire backyard was completely flooded. It was just nothing but water,” Kristin Watson, whose home backs up to part of the canal, told the RGJ. “We just sort of panicked because we knew we had to get out of there real quick.”
In an AP-RGJ story, Fernley resident Yvette Fish said, “It was just mind-blowing to ride a boat through my own neighborhood,” noting that she fell into shock as rescuers reeled her family to safety using a helicopter-mounted winch. “It was one of those things where you can’t quite comprehend what’s going on.”
Nearly 1,000 buildings and 700 parcels and more than 50 roads were damaged. Approximately 1,500 people out of a population of about 20,000 were displaced by water as deep as eight feet in some places.
In response to the destruction, Fernley has launched “The 15 Days of Kindness” campaign. On April 19, Fernley Mayor Todd Cutler will kick off the event at his monthly “Coffee with the Mayor,” this time held at Power In Flow Fitness at 95 West Main Street. “On January 5, this community was challenged,” Cutler says. “Had it not been for the random acts of kindness and gifts from our community, from our legislators, and from around the state and the nation, we would not have made it through.”
Pledges to participate in this inaugural event have already been committed. The Fernley Rotary Club offered their support and will help at various “Think Kindness” events, including a community clean up, tree-planting ceremonies, and recognition for students who think “outside the box” and commit acts of kindness. Nevada Blue has pledged to assist with signs promoting the event, and Power in Flow Fitness will offer free 15-day passes.
As of February 20, families, individuals, and businesses in Lyon County suffering damage had been approved to receive more than $3.79 million in disaster assistance through organizations such as FEMA, the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. In January, Silver Springs business Nevada Wood Preserving, Inc. donated $2,500 to its neighbors in Fernley.