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Damage from NC earthquake more extensive than initially thought

Posted August 18, 2020 5:50 p.m. EDT

— The 5.1-magnitude earthquake that shook northwest North Carolina last week caused extensive damage across Alleghany County, officials said Tuesday.

Damage reports are still coming in from the Aug. 9 quake, but 525 have been filed with the county so far, according to Daniel Roten, county emergency management coordinator. As inspectors check the reports, 60 so far have been logged as major damage, meaning a structure has lost at least 40 percent of its value, he said.

Bill Osborne, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said the damage includes houses that were rocked off their foundations or left with cracks up their walls.

"Hopefully, the state and federal [governments] will kick in money to help the people that are placed out of their homes," Osborne said. "We never had a need for earthquake insurance before, but there is now."

The Red Cross is still providing shelter to 19 people from 10 families, Roten said.

"I'm still cleaning up glass," said 71-year-old Shirley Billings, who's moving out of her rented home after 14 years.

"It scared me to death," Billings said of the earthquake. "It shocked me, nearly knocked me out."

The area has experienced 20 aftershocks over the past nine days that have kept area residents on edge, Sparta Mayor Wes Brinegar said.

"We are hearing continuous rumbles throughout our community here," Brinegar said. "But we thank the good Lord to this day that there's been no injuries or fatalities."

Sisters Mary Crouse and Alice Estep have lived in the same house for 54 years and said they don't know how they will pay to repair it after the earthquake.

"The whole house, it was like it blew up, started shaking and twisting and turning. Everything started falling everywhere," Estep said.

"Everything that we've done all our lives has gone into this. Now, it's all gone," Crouse said. "This was not just a small earthquake. This was devastating to the people in the county."

Brinegar said many area residents lack earthquake insurance and will be struggling to make repairs, and he asked anyone who could help to lend a hand.

"Don't forget about Sparta and Alleghany County," he said. "This is real. This is real America. We may be small, but we have a big heart."

Still, Brinegar cautioned against falling for fundraising scams, noting that neither his town nor his county is sponsoring a GoFundMe page. Any donations to the Red Cross should note they are for the Alleghany County earthquake, he said.

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