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Tiny desert town of Ocotillo rattled by brunt of earthquakes

June 15, 2010 | 12:52 pm

Ocotillo, population 296, was already on edge after a 7.2-magnitude quake struck Easter Sunday just across the Mexican border and caused minor damage in their tiny desert town.

Ocotillo, CAAnd then the shaking came even closer to home.

The community just off Interstate 8 in Imperial County was five miles from the epicenter of the 5.7-magnitude earthquake that hit at 9:26 p.m. Monday. Since then, it has been rattled by dozens of aftershocks.

Adam Sarver, 25, was on the couch watching TV when the walls started violently shaking, sending glasses and books crashing to the floor.

“It almost looked like the roof was going to come down,” the manager of an off-road vehicle rental store said. “There's been little rumblers here and there all night, and they've still been going on since then.”

It was hard for Linda Ewing, 57, to find something around her house that wasn't damaged by the quake, which started rumbling just as she rested her head on her pillow to go to sleep.

“We are the epicenter, we had severe damage,” she said. “We immediately lost power, because the transformer that fed our house fell off the pole. Nothing stayed on the walls.”

Ewing, an electrical contractor, stayed up all night sweeping a pathway through the broken dishes, scattered clothing and furniture that trapped her in her house in the dark with nothing but her emergency flashlight. Even her solid oak entertainment center affixed to the wall toppled over.

Elsewhere in Ocotillo, a town so small there are no stoplights and just a handful of businesses -- a bar and a gas station among them -- residents have reported broken water pipes and cracks in the wells they rely on for drinking water. Mobile homes and the community center also sustained earthquake damage.

Many in Ocotillo just finished cleaning up the damage from the April 4 quake centered just across the border in Baja California. As they felt the Earth trembling in recent weeks, they worried that another would come.

“The activity has just increased dramatically, and since Easter it's been nonstop,” Ewing said. “I'm sad to say, but everyone's on pins and needles. Everybody is just freaked.”

-- Tony Barboza

Map: Google