WELLS, Nev. — Yvonne Stuart says she'll never forget that feeling. As soon as she turned on her television and saw the devastation in Japan, she immediately thought of the earthquake that hit Wells three years ago.

"Oh gosh, do I ever," said Stuart. "It was a quarter past six, and it was a rolling feeling. It was like a freight train, except it was worse."

Stuart was inside her home on Feb. 21, 2008, when a magnitude-6.0 earthquake hit Wells. "Everything started crashing. There was glass breaking and walls shaking," said Stuart.

Fast forward to today, and Wells is still rebuilding.

Stuart was hanging pictures and painting walls in a new building where the museum will be relocated. The building the museum is in now is leaking and still damaged from the earthquake. Stuart bought the new building and put on new stucco, new windows, and new bracings.

There are a lot of buildings in Wells that have been repaired. However, if you head along Seventh Street in the main part of downtown, it still looks the same way it did the day after the earthquake.

"It's sad, but the people who own these buildings do not have the money to go and clean up what needs to be done," said Stuart.

Wells didn't have enough damage to qualify for federal assistance, but it was enough to change the town's personality.

"I think people were in the process of trying to rebuild the town, bring it back to life, and the earthquake kind of put everything on hold," said Denny Stanhope.

"We're slowly getting back into it," said Matthew Holford, the President of the Wells Chamber of Commerce, "but every time something like Japan happens, it makes a lot of people here nervous."

A 6.0 quake was enough to topple buildings in Wells. Residents don't want to think about Japan's 8.9.

"An 8.9 would've taken out all the new structures and even more and more and more," said Holford.

There are emergency preparedness classes in Wells now. Many residents say they know what to do if another disaster hits.

"I think we all got prepared the very next day," said Stanhope, "and we've all stayed prepared. A lot of people are still buying generators, stacking away a little bit extra food, a little more of the essentials, and having some type of plan together."

But more than that, residents say it brings people together.

"People grow closer as they have to go and face some kind of emergency and they help each other out as much as they can, and you hope to keep that spirit going," said Stuart.

"My wife works for Great Basin College," said Holford, "and one day she went to work and there was $5,000 worth of $20 bills in a shopping bag to help with repairs. That's the kind of thing that happens around here."

e-mail: acabrero@desnews.com