While discussing yesterday's post with a friend on Facebook, I mentioned that I was in Los Angeles for the Northridge Earthquake, and that at least hurricanes provided some warning.
That got me to thinking about the experience of being in a major quake, and brought back some memories worth sharing:
The Northridge Quake - 6.7 on the Richter scale - occurred at 4:30 a.m. on January 17, 1994. I was asleep on the eighth floor of a Sheraton Hotel in Culver City, and was quite literally thrown out of bed and onto the floor.
As soon as I was able, I picked up the phone and called home. It was 6:30 Central Time, and I caught Honey on her way out the door headed for work. When I began by assuring her I was OK, she didn't know what I was talking about, but by the time she got to work all of the media were talking about massive devastation and it was almost impossible to get through on the phone.
From my hotel room, I could see a huge fire near LAX. I later learned that it was a petroleum tank farm where several storage tanks had ruptured.
I was in LA for a Ricoh school, and we were able to complete our course, although we did have to wait until after noon before the building housing the classrooms was declared safe to enter.
One member of my class was from Bakersfield, CA, but his parents lived in Northridge. He was unable to reach them by phone, but on the third day after the quake we were allowed past police barricades and were able to drive to their home. They were fine, but living in a tent in their front yard.
Being relatively close to the airport, the hotel catered to a lot of airline flight crews. There were two KLM stewardesses on my floor who were apparently in the habit of sleeping in the buff. When the quake hit, they ran out of their room and the door locked behind them. I learned this later, was probably on the phone with my wife at the time, but they made their way down the stairs to the lobby. Peeking out the door from the stairs, they finally got the attention of an off-duty cop who was working hotel security. He kept them there for almost 20 minutes, saying things like "How do I know you're hotel guests?" and "Do you have any identification?"
My classmates and I went to lunch at noon. It was less than eight hours after the quake hit and we were still feeling frequent aftershocks, but there were already guys on street corners selling T-shirts that said "I survived the NORTHRIDGE QUAKE"