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Quake rattles town

Prizefighters say its always the punch they dont see coming that drops them to the canvas.
Photo by Laura Seitz/Deseret Morning NewsKen Maynard cleans up broken dishes in the kitchen of the Wells Ward meetinghouse.
Church members in Wells Nev. learned something about phantom punches Feb. 21 when their community was rattled by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake. Geologists say Nevada is one of the most seismically active states in the U.S. but a temblor this strong hadnt reportably been felt near Wells — a town located 141 miles west of Salt Lake City — in almost half a century.
The destructive shaking took everyone by surprise.
Ive never felt an earthquake before said Wells Ward Bishop Robert Johnson who lives outside Wells in nearby Deeth. Things just started tipping back and forth.
Several members were counted among the quakes victims. Two suffered injuries including Bishop Johnsons first counselor David Ashby who was struck in the head by falling debris as he raced through his house to check on his small children. Doctors had to stitch up a gash on Brother Ashbys forehead but hes recovering well and has returned to work.
A high school age young man suffered minor injuries when he was trapped under furniture that toppled during the rumbling said Bishop Johnson.
Meanwhile six LDS families were displaced from their homes and 75 percent of the Wells Ward members suffered some sort of damage to their homes. Some of its pretty serious and a lot of people dont have (earthquake) insurance said Bishop Johnson.
The 46-year-old Wells Ward meetinghouse was also damaged and will need repairs.
The Church responded quickly to help. On a local level Bishop Johnson said he worked closely with ward priesthood and Relief Society leaders to make sure all members were located and cared for. The various quorums were successful in making a quick accounting and assessment of folks in the ward and their respective circumstances and needs.
Photo by Laura Seitz/Deseret Morning NewsDavid Ashby a member of the Wells Ward bishopric touches the gash on his forehead he received while trying to reach his daughters bedroom.
Ive been just amazed at how people came together Bishop Johnson said.
The members are dealing with a wide range of feelings in the temblors aftermath. Some are fearful to return to their homes with aftershocks still being felt days after the initial quake. Others are steeling themselves for a period of costly rebuilding. All feel lucky and grateful that no lives were lost and no one was seriously injured.
Local Church units provided money to the Red Cross which had volunteers in Wells a short time after the earthquake. Bishop Johnson said he has also been contacted by the First Presidencys Office the North America Southwest Area and other Church organizations that have all offered their assistance.
In the coming weeks hundreds of volunteers from the Elko Nevada East Stake will converge on Wells to repair roofs walls masonry and plumbing for homeowners of all faiths and backgrounds.
We have about 80 chimneys to be fixed said Bishop Johnson.
Assistance extends beyond home repairs. Emotional and spiritual needs in the Wells Ward are also being tended to. Plans to hold Feb. 24 Sunday meetings with the neighboring Ruby Valley Branch were foiled by a nasty snowstorm so some 18 ward members met in Bishop Johnsons home to share the sacrament and listen to gospel instruction.
It was a sweet experience said Bishop Johnson of the humble Sabbath services. Repairs were expected to begin this week on the Wells Ward meetinghouse. Workers will fortify the two main beams in the gym and a retaining wall in the chapel.
The Wells quake served as a sobering reminder to members worldwide to be prepared.
We learned that having a 72-hour kit is so valuable said Bishop Johnson.
Fuel was not available for about 12 hours after the initial temblor and the water was shut off. For many drinking water was not available until the Red Cross arrived. Basic items such as blankets became luxuries during the frigid nights. But those who were prepared had no problems Bishop Johnson said.
Preparation he added comes in many forms. Folks free of financial debt are able to repair their homes without compounding prior money troubles. Theyre enjoying peace of mind.
Photo by Tom Smart Deseret Morning NewsFirecrews inspect damage along the historic district in Wells Nev. caused by magnitude 6.0 earthquake.
E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com

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