Monday, November 24, 2008

New Madrid Quake?


Living here in California, I've been through a few. I was sitting in a Denny's Restaurant (finally getting around to eating lunch) about four miles from the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The Denny's is located off of Highway 17 in Scotts Valley near the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I had no idea how devastating the quake was until I arrived home. I should have guessed how bad it was when the power went out and the lamp poles in the parking lot were waving like palm trees in a hurricane.

I just tossed a $20.00 on the counter and bolted for my truck.

If you missed it, or were in part of the country that kinda was hoping California was going to fall off into the ocean, you can look at some gnarly (pronounced NAR-lee for all you hodads out there) photos here.

I wasn't able to receive any radio stations on the stereo in my old Dodge Ram. Just static came through, so I think I was listening to the soundtrack from the movie "Innerspace". I had this thing for the music of Wang Chung at the time. Hey, it was the 80's and I guess you had to be there. Navigating a mountain after an earthquake is an interesting experience. The strange thing is, I remember very little of the trip. Just bits and pieces of it.

When I got down off the mountain and into Los Gatos, it was freakin' sureal. It was starting to get dark, and there were cop cars, ambulances, firetrucks, city vehicles all with their lights flashing all over the place. Man, it was like being at Studio 54 while on acid. It was probably even worse news for some poor epileptic who got caught out there in that stroboscopic nightmare.

Toppled power poles. Collapsed buildings. Houses off their foundations. People standing dumbstruck in the streets. Dogs and kids running everywhere. And darkness coming with the power out.

Back then cell phones were expensive and somewhat of a rarity. Not to mention they were so huge you could use them as a weapon. I had a pager, but it wasn't working. Well, more accurately no one could page me because the phones were either out or overloaded by the volume of calls.

I had no idea how freaked out my girlfriend (now my wife) was and how she was trying to reach me. I had no idea that the dispatchers for the company I work for were trying madly to reach me via pager, and by calling my home.


I was playing tourist on my drive home to San Jose. Just taking in the sights of chaos and destruction that surrounded me.

When I got home, I was greeted by one of my housemates. He was sitting soaking wet wearing his swim trunks in the living room eating a bowl of cereal and watching TV. Several blocks of homes around us didn't lose power after the quake, but it did come and go through the next week as repairs to surrounding areas were made.

I saw the scenes of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge on the TV. My housemate was upset that World Series had been interrupted. It was then I noticed that the carpet in the living room was soaked, and that the pool was half empty.

I asked my housemate about it. "Dude, it was so GNARLY! The pool was like a giant tidal wave, man! I didn't know it was coming so I totally barnwallered!" The fool had been in the pool when the quake hit. The water sloshed out like when kids move the water back and forth in a bath tub. It explained why the carpet was soaked.

He's lucky that the water hadn't thrown him head first into the side of the pool.

It started to dawn on me that this whole thing was pretty serious.

I tried to call my mom, brother, boss, the dispatchers, and my girlfriend. The lines were completely jammed.

"Dude, have you been upstairs?" I asked.

"Shaaaaa, man look at the book case. Why do you think I'm still sitting here wet? I ain't going to be no Freddie and try and climb that!"

I went to the stairs and saw the book case that used to be at the top of the stairs was now halfway down the stairs and blocking the damn thing. I started heaving books to the bottom of the stairs. After clearing the stairs so I wouldn't risk sliding on a book, I worked the book case free and started shoving it back up the stairs.

I had to force the door to my bedroom open as EVERYTHING was now on the floor.

I made a quick tour of the exterior of the house and checked the breaker box, the gasline and water line where they came into the house. In my neighborhood all the utilities were underground, so I wasn't too worried.

I grabbed a change of clothes and headed to the bathroom to clean up. I didn't know how long we would have power or gas. So I wanted to take advantage of it while I could.

After cleaning up, I tried making phone calls again with still no luck.

I told my housemate to let John and Jean (the other two housemates) that I was okay, and I'd be back later. I was going to try and get down to my girlfriend's house.

The drive down to Morgan Hill along Old Monterey Highway was uneventful. I was the only vehicle until I got to Madrone.

Traffic lights were out. Power was out. And people were wandering around in the streets.

I jumped over to Railroad Avenue and took the back way to my girlfriend's.

Her place was trashed. It looked like the Ramones had thrown a party there. I spent the evening helping her and her folks clean up the place.

I'll post more tomorrow, I've gotta grab some shuteye. I have to be at an early job.

1 comment:

Ken said...

...welcome back brother,was wonderin' what hppened to ya...hope yer world aint too tore up...put some of the pieces back together firs...then give us an update