Facebook Twitter

Mobile home residents grappling with extensive damage after Utah earthquake

SHARE Mobile home residents grappling with extensive damage after Utah earthquake

A damaged trailer home in Magna on Thursday, March 19, 2020, following Wednesday’s 5.7 earthquake.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Shane Cammack was sitting in the living room of his double-wide trailer Thursday afternoon when he felt the unmistakable rumble of an aftershock.

“I can see the needle moving right there,” he said, laughing as he pointed at the antique grandfather clock standing in the corner of his kitchen, its needle shaking back and forth like a homemade seismograph.

Cammack is one of many Western Estates residents whose home was deemed “restricted” after Wednesday’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake. Only about a mile from the epicenter, the small mobile home community on the West Valley-Magna border was hit hard by the temblor, which knocked trailers off foundations, shattered windows, and left residents temporarily without heat or water.

“This should be covered with (homeowners) insurance,” said Cammack, whose trailer moved slightly off its foundation, a fix he said would still cost thousands of dollars. “If not, we’ve got a little bit of money in the savings.”

The Deseret News talked to over a dozen residents on Thursday, none of whom had earthquake insurance.

“It was just too expensive at the time,” Cammack said. “From now on I’m definitely going to have that kind of insurance.”

Cammack was relatively lucky compared to some of his neighbors, whose homes were declared “unsafe,” meaning the occupants can’t return until they make substantial repairs. The majority of the nearly 50 structures deemed either unsafe or restricted by Salt Lake County were in Western Estates.

RHP Properties, the company that owns Western Estates, offered to pay April’s rent to all residents, and the American Red Cross is prepared to help people with temporary housing, food, clothing and medication.

But residents are still facing thousands of dollars in repairs and many are unsure of what to do next.

“It’s so expensive ... this will cost too much,” said Jose Otelles, a Western Estates resident whose trailer was left hanging off its foundation. A pink piece of paper with “UNSAFE” printed in bold lettering was taped next to his front door.

Otelles, who is now staying with relatives, stopped by his trailer Thursday afternoon to assess the damage. His homeowners insurance isn’t going to cover anything.

“I’m not covered for the earthquake,” Otelles said as he unloaded sheets of plywood from his pickup truck to board up the broken windows of his mobile home. “I hope somebody will help me fix this, maybe my friends.”

The earthquake damaged individual gas lines in the park, prompting Dominion Energy to temporarily shut off gas to the entire neighborhood.

On Thursday, Dominion Energy trucks lined the streets as workers tried to repair the damaged lines.

“We don’t currently have any gas or running water,” said Irving Fernandez, another Western Estates resident. “That’s why it’s so cold in here.”

Dominion Energy spokesman Don Porter said most of the homes will have gas restored by Friday. But Fernandez and his father aren’t taking any chances, and the two loaded a car full bottled water and nonperishable food before going to stay with a relative in Rose Park.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Fernandez said it looked like someone turned their house upside down. His TV jumped off the wall, glassware shattered and belongings were strewn across the trailer.

“I just heard everything falling and my dog was crying,” he said. “That’s when I heard my dad screaming out my name.”

Although county workers said the home is safe, Fernandez and his family won’t be back until his father can reinforce the trailer’s foundation.

“He said he’s scared, he’s paranoid,” Fernandez said, translating for his Spanish-speaking father, Edgar Rodriguez. “We don’t really know what to do.”

“We have to help our neighbors, we have to look out for each other,” said Cammack, who was inspired by the outpouring of support from his neighbors. “It’s a shame that it takes something like this, but it’s still nice to see.”

“I might not be able to fix your trailer,” said Janese Stewart, a Western Estates resident whose house sustained minor damages. “But I can be your friend.”