Saturday, October 17, 2009

Earthquake!

SUMMARY: Twenty years ago today.
Twenty years ago this evening, just after 5:00 p.m., the Loma Prieta earthquake hit.

It was NOT the big one; registered a mere 6.9. For most of the millions of residents of the San Francisco Bay area, damage looked no worse than this (one of our chimneys) and mostly much less:


or this (a neighbor's chimney)


I already posted a brief, general account here two years ago.

And I posted some of my photos and other memorabilia on my photo site, with additional commentary about the quake.

I took no photos of the dogs and their behavior (well, I was a little preoccupied). But here's how it went with the dogs.

I was at work when the quake hit, about 15 miles from the epicenter and about 2 miles from home. After the main shaking stopped--and it continued for about 30 seconds, which feels like an eternity when the ground is shaking so hard that you can't really walk--we all evacuated rapidly into the parking lot, where we gathered around our cars listening to the car radios. (Remember--no cell phones, no world wide web. This was "the good old days"!) Aftershock followed by aftershock rolled across the earth, but none so bad as the original quake.

When the aftershocks had died off somewhat, upper management checked out the building quickly: It was a mess (yes, that's the air conditioning ducting hanging out of the ceiling and my co-worker's collapsed bookcase), but didn't look like it was on the verge of collapse. so they escorted us into the building in groups of 3 at a time--to dash in, grab our purses or car keys or wallets, and go back out the the parking lot.


So I couldn't get home for at least half an hour to an hour after the initial shake. I made a quick pass through the house, saw the disaster of broken glass and liquids in the kitchen and assorted disarray, damage, and breakage in other parts of the house, so hustled my dogs out of the house into the driveway. There we sat in the pleasant evening on lawn chairs, listening to the radio (battery-operated--no power!) and hoping that eventually my husband would call and tell us he was OK.


Sheba, our Siberian Husky, was panic-stricken. She was a known escape artist from way back, and the moving earth drove her into a frenzy of trying to get away. We were lucky once because my mother-in-law was staying with us at the time, was in the kitchen looking out at our driveway gate when the quake hit, and could see the gate swing open and Sheba try to make a break for it. We were lucky again as the days and aftershocks wore on that Sheba never did escape; one friend's dog took off and was never seen again, despite all of us plastering the neighborhoods with LOST DOG signs. The humane society reported a vastly increased number of stray dogs in the days after the quake.

Sheba hated every minute of it. I think that she was in a literal state of shock herself; eyes wide, panting uncontrollably, not interested in eating, shaking and trembling every time an aftershock came, and continuing to do so for a long time after each one. On that first night, I didn't feel comfortable sleeping in our second-floor bedroom (especially with the bureaus and closet doors and such strewn around, and especially not with the aftershocks continuing). So we opened the sofabed in the one-story part of the house and slept there.


Or, should I say, TRIED to sleep. Sheba was not a cuddling dog. But all that first night, she lay on my chest, her haunted eyes staring almost blindly at me, panting and shaking and drooling. She was 9 at the time, and I was afraid that she was on the verge of a heart attack. Took me a very long time trying to get a dial tone on the phone to call the vet. Not because the phone lines were down, oh no! But because everyone's first reaction was to pick up the phone and start calling people! So all the lines were overloaded. The radio kept telling us to STOP CALLING if it's NOT AN EMERGENCY so that people who NEEDED to use the phone for important things (e.g., calling 911) could do so.

Eventually I gave up on contacting the vet that day (and possibly the following day). She didn't relax for several days, and I'm not sure how much sleep she got during the first couple of days.

Amber, our German Shepherd/Golden mix, as a counterpoint to the husky, remained unimpressed by anything having to do with the earthquake. On an aftershock, she'd lift her head wherever she was sleeping at the time, look around in mild annoyance at the disturbance, and go right back to sleep immediately afterwards. Thank goodness, because having TWO dogs shaking and drooling and panting on my chest all night would have been a little too cozy.

And neither of them EVER gave any indication that they had an inkling about an earthquake or aftershock about to occur. None of my dogs ever have. Dang worthless earthquake predictors.

I was amused, however, when my office eventually reopened (after the earthquake safety inspectors had been through) and discovered this on my Far Side calendar for the day after the quake:

3 comments:

  1. Certain folks (*cough* fenton *cough*) admonish us not to turn calendar pages ahead cuz it's bad luck. You, with your Canine Earthquake Warning Systems being down, might have been able to see it coming had you only looked ahead by one page. ;-)

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  2. Amazing. Here in Michigan we get earthquakes once in awhile. OK. I remember two in my lifetime, both so mild we had to be told by the news people that there had been one. I think it would be really scary to be in a big (or even medium) one.

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  3. Once I was in Washington D.C. sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. The building shook oddly, and I looked around to see whether anyone else noticed. I thought, "if I were in california, I'd swear that was an earthquake, but it must have been an airplane somehow." Even though I didn't hear anything outside.

    Got home & read the next day that there had been an earthquake in the upper-3, lower-4 range in that area! And probably no one there had a clue what it was.

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