WELLS, Nev. David Ashby woke up Thursday to an earthquake, knowing his daughters like to sleep on the floor in their bedroom these days.
Ashby tried to hurry, but fell on the shaking floor and then started crawling to his girls' room a few more feet away. The whole house was rumbling, things were falling off shelves and walls, and it was loud inside. Something hit Ashby in the head he still isn't sure what and he started bleeding.
When he reached his daughters, he saw they were awake and unharmed. For some reason, they decided to sleep together on the top level of their bunk bed during the night. They were fine, but scared because their Dad was bleeding badly from a gash in his head that he later had stitched up at a clinic in town.
Over the next 15 minutes, several aftershocks would send the girls under a table where they usually eat their meals. In the kitchen nearby, broken glass covered the floor. A crystal vase Ashby gave his wife for their first Christmas together 17 years ago fell and broke.
"It would be lovely to still have," Sara Ashby said inside her home. Even as she talked while standing in the kitchen, yet another of more than 30 aftershocks by Thursday afternoon could be felt.
But there are more important things, she said, imagining what could have been if her daughters were on the floor of their bedroom when one of the stacked bookshelves fell.
There were other injuries reported around town, a few broken bones, other people needing stitches, David Ashby said. At around noon he was at the LDS Church a few blocks away, plowing snow and ice away from sidewalks in anticipation of people showing up in search of comfort, perhaps a place to stay or a meal.
LDS Bishop Robert Johnson said the church donated $7,000 to the Red Cross, and that they were ready to feed 200 if that many came for dinner in what he said is the biggest building in town besides the schools.
Inside the church gymnasium, engineers were looking at cracks in the wall and some loose and fallen bricks from just beneath one of two huge wood support beams. The plan was to position some power poles under the beams. In fact, while a group of men were looking at the damage, an aftershock prompted everyone to take a step toward the door or at least out from under the beam.
"We're paying a little closer attention now," Ashby, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, said about the aftershocks.
Inside the church kitchen, a man was cleaning up fragments of dishes that had fallen to the floor.
"This is nothing compared to a lot of homes in town," Johnson said.
Brick chimneys, like the one at Ashby's home, had crumbled. Johnson described huge messes inside homes where wall hangings fell and shelves were emptied by the quake.
"There's just a lot of people whose houses are unsafe," Johnson said. "It's really sad."
His church, he added, could accommodate up to 500 people, if needed. Services planned for this Sunday in the chapel, however, had to be canceled because of damage inside that room.
At Johnson's home about 20 miles outside of town, the quake was a rude awakening.
"It really shook," he said. "I think my house is fine. It was really scary."
Johnson said he was amazed to hear that there were no fatalities.
Ashby said the quake that hit Wells was different than the frequent quakes he felt while on a two-year mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Chile, he said, the quakes that came every month or so had more of a rolling motion, whereas the one that hit Wells seemed to shake more violently. Even a quake that Sara Ashby said hit Wells last year was nothing like Thursday's temblor, and she already is planning what to do about her daughters' sleep habits of late.
"You think, 'Don't let them sleep on the floor next time,"' she said about changes that may be taking place around the house. Like switching from glass to plastic, not storing things in high places and getting rid of stuff they don't need, much of which ended up spread out all over the floors of their home.
Through it all the Ashby girls handled themselves well, and their older brother, Nathan, 14, took it all in stride. Nate, as he likes to be called, didn't have much to say, other than he thought the quake was a train derailing a few blocks away.
Naomi Ashby wasn't sure what had happened. "I thought it was a bad dream," she said.But all she had to do was look at the floor of her bedroom, with clutter way beyond what normally occurs while sharing a room with her sister, to be reminded Thursday that it wasn't a dream at all.
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