HELENA — A half dozen people milled around D&D Foodtown grocery store in Lincoln Thursday morning, helping clean up broken glass, tomato sauce and other products that fell from the shelves during the midnight quake and ensuing aftershocks.
Business owners, volunteer firefighters and neighbors in the small town of around 1,000 came together to pick up the pieces after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the area. The epicenter was about 6 miles south of town, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.
Lori Aranbarri, who owns the town’s grocery with her husband, said she was grateful for all the community support that had turned up to help clean up the shop. She also works as an EMT in town and recently beat a bout of cancer.
“We’re just boxing it all up for now,” Aranbarri said. “I couldn’t really begin to guess how much of a financial loss it will end up being.”
Across Highway 200, librarian Sherri Wood said she walked in to find the shelves of the library totally emptied, heaps of books on the floor. By 9:45 a.m., almost all of the books were back on the shelves and the Dewey Decimal System in order with the help of a few lending hands.
Wood recounted her efforts to save her 23-year-old plecostomus fish after its aquarium cracked during the quake. For now, the tropical fish has a new home in a basting pan.
Ken Nelson and his wife JoAnn recently moved to Lincoln, but were quickly making friends by helping to pick up cans of soup at the store and put away books at the library.
“We were outside when the first aftershock hit. It visibly shook the whole house, rattling the vinyl siding, sounded like a bag of dry beans shaking or something.”
Besides damage to household items and retail products, most of the local infrastructure remained intact. One crack in Stemple Pass Road was reported by Lewis and Clark County public works official Pete Dempster.
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Just outside downtown Lincoln, Gordon Becker’s home was filled with broken wine glasses, cracked light fixtures and a smashed mule deer skull that had fallen off the wall.
Becker was outside at a bonfire with his family when the quake hit. He saw his truck, parked near the campfire, shaking “like there were 10 people jumping around in it.”
Beyond the loss of light fixtures and glass bottles, Becker’s chimney was left with a 4-foot crack, and the top few bricks had been shaken askew.
“I’m just glad we were outside when the quake hit. The elk mount hanging over my bed fell off, so at least we avoided that.”
Even the top portion of his gun cabinet, which he said probably weighed hundreds of pounds, had shifted off the base and almost fell. His family spent the night in their camping trailer.
Within about 15 minutes of the initial earthquake, Lewis and Clark County 911 dispatch had fielded 257 calls from people asking about the quake, Sheriff Leo Dutton said.
Dutton and Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department Chief Zach Muse directed efforts to survey the area for damage. Muse said the local DNRC field office had sustained a crack in its foundation.
“As people get a closer look, we’re probably going to see a lot more foundational damage,” Muse said. “I’m afraid to go home and look at mine.”