Twenty-five years ago on October 17, 1989, my daughter and I were out riding our horses when the great Loma Prieta earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the most destructive quakes in California history, it knocked down part of a freeway, collapsed a section of the Bay Bridge, destroyed numerous houses and killed 69 people while we never FELT a thing.
It was a lovely fall afternoon as we saddled our horses and prepared to go for a ride. The ranch where we kept them was in a rural area south of San Jose and, it turned out, not far from the quake epicenter. They say animals frequently act peculiarly before a quake but ours seemed fine. However, as we left the property I glanced back and was astounded to see a horse rear up, go over backward and actually fall over his paddock fence. Several people rushed to get him, so we continued on our way scratching our heads at the bizarre incident. Something really scary had to have happened to make a horse do that.
A few minutes later we were riding through a small valley and approaching an old orchard. My daughter was in the lead. Suddenly the abandoned school/farm worker bus ahead of us started shaking. My immediate thought was that was a dangerous place for kids to be playing. Then a giant roar of wind swept through the orchard and over us and both horses spun for home. I held my jittering mare in place while my daughter’s horse tried to climb on top of us. The hills around us seemed to move up and down in slow waves, then roar of wind swept over again from the opposite direction. Quiet returned except for an air raid siren wailing in the distance.
We had no idea what had just happened. I’ve lived most of my life in California but I had never been outside when a quake hit before, so I didn’t know what it was like. We had quakes all the time and they were no big deal. The siren made me wonder if one of the test rockets at the nearby UTC facility had blown up. The horses calmed down, so we continued on our way. A few minutes later the trail went behind some houses and we found a woman in her backyard having hysterics. That’s when we discovered it was an earthquake not an explosion, so we turned back.
When we got back to the stable people were huddled around a car, listening to the radio describe all the destruction, while the ranch was untouched. We put away the horses and hurried home, keeping our fingers crossed. Earthquakes send out waves of energy. When they come close to the surface they do the most damage. Our house appeared to have been passed by the deep part of the wave and while it was shaken there was little damage. You could see the direction of the energy by the way the water had gushed over the long ends of our pool and direction the living room étagère had tilted. Luckily the piano had caught the shelves and nothing had broken. Our only casualty was a figurine that had fallen in my daughter’s bedroom.
We spent that night glued to the TV and radio while the Bay Area tried to sort itself out. San Francisco, unfortunately, got caught by the upper part of the wave and was hit hard. It’s a bizarre experience to listen to all the turmoil going on in an area less than an hour away while your life is going on as normal. It was even more bizarre to have watched the hills dance.
How about you? Have you had experience with disasters?
Building photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kkvzq8v
Horses photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kjcgxl2
Crushed car photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/mynfnbr