Thursday, August 09, 2007

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on!

Yes, we had another earthquake in Los Angeles Thursday morning. 4.5 on the Richter scale. In comparison, a 9 would be like living through a Michael Bay movie. It came around 1 a.m. I was sitting at my computer. No one else in the flirt nook felt it. Lasting about a minute, there was a rumble, jolt, then more rumbling. Since my cable didn’t go out I knew there was no damage anywhere in a two hundred mile radius. My cable almost went out the previous day because of the New York rainstorm.

I’d like to say we Angelinos get used to earthquakes and just roll with them (so to speak). But each one is unnerving. In the back of our minds we’re always thinking, “Is this the big one?” followed by, “I hope the epicenter is under Rupert Murdoch’s house.”

But we try to stay philosophical. Every locale has something. Hurricanes in Florida, floods in Iowa, tornadoes in Brooklyn, bridges in Minneapolis. We just have to press on.

Well…not all of us. During one early morning quake the local Channel 4 anchor on-camera just dove under the desk in terror. Not exactly Edward R. Murrow reporting from London with enemy bombs dropping behind him.

The night of the Whittier earthquake in 1987 (Richter rated 5.9 if you're scoring.) I went to Dodger Stadium. It was the end of the season, I was trying to make a play-by-play audition tape I could send to the minors, time was running out, and I still sucked. But as I sat there in the first row of the upper deck I thought to myself, “If there’s a big aftershock is there possibly a worse place I could be than a giant 25 year old concrete overhang hovering precariously hundreds of feet above the ground?” And worse, I blew a big inning by mis-identifying Mickey Hatcher as Teri Hatcher.

But the real terrifying quake was the one in Northridge in ’94. That one had a magnitude of 6.7 and caused $12 billion in damages (including my fallen chimney). Plus there were aftershocks for weeks, some substantial. For months, every time someone turned on an electric razor people scrambled to get under door frames.

Thank goodness for Jack Popejoy. Jack was the morning anchor on KFWB radio, the all-news station. His unflappable demeanor, reassurance, and steady reporting had a huge calming effect on a very shaken population. Heroes emerge from trying times.

Everyone who lived through the Northridge quake has a story. But here’s the funniest I’ve heard. There was a business affairs guy at Paramount who took a couple of sleeping pills and slept through the entire thing. When he awoke, all of his things were strewn about the floor. So he called the police and said he was robbed.

Oh those wacky natural disasters!


maven said...

Yeah, that shakin' last night was a rude awakening (again)! What I remember from the Northridge Quake was how friendly people got. It's amazing how a disaster brings people together and get them talking and helping each other out. We even had cookouts on the street! BTW: I had just asked my husband the day before this latest shake when we have to replace our water supply in our earthquake kit again! Such is life in Southern California!

Unknown said...

The anchor to whom you referred was/is Kent Shocknek. I always thought he got a bad rap about that. There was an aftershock when he was on the air, and as you said, you never knew how bad these things are going to get when they start. I have to imagine in a TV studio, you've got some really large lights dancing about when one of these hits. He also asked the crew make themselves safe as he went under the desk. I'm not sure what in the public interest would have been served had he stayed at his post at a desk and was clocked on the head. He was reading a teleprompter, not guarding Checkpoint Charlie.

For the record, I was an undergraduate at USC at the time, and even as a foreigner from Chicago, where we have cows roaming the streets, I never found the earthquakes that disturbing. There was one in 1988 or 1989 where my teacup got knocked over, and that bothered me more than the earthquake. But I never looked down my nose at those that were profoundly shaken by even small quakes.

I've always thought that it's as some have described the reaction of Civil War soldiers when first under fire. Some stood their ground and fired back, some threw their guns down and ran. But in neither case was the decision conscious; it was just the way you were built, and bravery had very little to do with it.

Ian said...

Last night's temblor was just enough to wake me momentarily and scatter the cats from the bed. Predictably, all the local news stations were having a cow over the quake on the morning broadcasts... apparently a package of Gold Bond was knocked from a Walgreen's shelf somewhere, and every station was showing the same can of foot powder lying in an otherwise empty aisle, followed by interviews with the scientist who grants interviews every time this happens (Kate Hutton, if memory serves). This time she could have pre-taped her comments, like Steve Martin's weather man in "L.A. Story," with just the epicenter and Richter scale number patched in. By the way, the cats were back on the bed within ten minutes, a sure sign that all in SoCal was well... enough.

Funny thing about Kent "After" Shocknek... he never seemed to live down his on-the-air dive under the news desk. (You'd never see that on channel five's giggle-fest, or channel eleven's jiggle fest...) Seems Shocknek lost his news gig with KNBC-4 and moved down the dial to KCBS-2 to do the 5:00 a.m. news there.

Rob said...

Here in Kentucky we live near a fault that, if it goes, will supposedly make Northridge look like a child's mechanical pony ride, especially because we're about as earthquake proofed as a Minnesota bridge.

We've had a few minor tremors here in my life. My first experience was enough for me. I was inside and it felt like a semi truck was driving inside our house. My father was standing outside and felt absolutely nothing.

One of my best friends was living in CA during Northridge. He had purchased tons of glass furniture, including a huge heavy bookshelf. A friend of his who was making his first trip to CA, had been sleeping on the floor in front of all of this furniture up until the morning before the earthquake. The quake destroyed most of that furniture, including bringing the entire bookcase that crashed where his friend had been sleeping. Welcome to California.

Anonymous said...

I remember putting my Earthquake Preparedness Kit together after the Northridge earthquake (and after I had cleaned up everything that could have possibly fallen out of my refrigerator and cupboards): A flashlight, a can of Spam and eight bottles of tequila... I figured if another one as strong as that one was going to hit, I'd better be schnockered...

VP81955 said...

Glad everyone's all right out there.

Thought this might be of interest, from a blog I run concerning the lady in my avatar (Carole Lombard). There'a a juicy Lombard anecdote concerning her reaction to a quake that happened in 1933, while she was working on a movie she didn't particularly care for. Here's the story, plus some background:

Emily Blake said...

I'm so pissed I was sound asleep and never noticed it. I've been here two years and have never felt an earthquake. Not that I want a big one, mind you. But this one would have been the perfect one to feel.

But I was passed out.

Anonymous said...

I remember the '71 Sylmar quake because we felt here in Bakersfield. Whoever was doing mornings on KERN then played Carole King's "I feel the Earth move" right afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I also went through the Sylmar quake in '71. Right after that very frightening minute, I turned on the radio. The local morning team - maybe Lohman and Barkley? - said they were still holding onto each other, and "we're getting married tomorrow."

Unknown said...

"And worse, I blew a big inning by mis-identifying Mickey Hatcher as Teri Hatcher."

The two homers in the 88 World Series aside, Teri Hatcher might've hit for more power than Mickey. I wonder which of them the Dodgers would rather have had in the clubhouse...???

Glad you came out of the tremor in fine form.

Anonymous said...

I shared an office with that Paramount Business Affairs guy about whom you write. I got to hear the story fresh the day he came back to work (the Tuesday after the quake, which occurred on the MLK Birthday holiday).

When he first told the story, he said he awoke and turned to his dog and said "Teddy, we've been robbed!" (did not call the police). However, he did then take his dog for a morning walk, and upon seeing all the shaken people outside on the street (Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood) and some people sitting on the curb, he asked if they were there for the King Day Parade. One of the bystanders told him there had been a quake, and then he put 2+2 together, reamrking "oh, I didn't think we celebrated MLK Day in West Hollywood"

That's among the milder of J's stories over the years.

Miles said...

I lived in a building in Hollywood and the same day of the earthquake, our neighbors from Germany literally packed up their bags and left, never, ever coming back. That was just it.

Anonymous said...

I was up watching TV when this quake hit. My first thought was "This chair doesn't have a 'Vibro' setting, does it?" I looked out my window. No other faces looking out windows in my apartment complex. I put my pants back on (I was watching TV at 1 AM. It was a disc about - ah - what happens if you lock a bunch of hot-looking men in a warehouse with no clothes for an hour. It's sociological. Yeah, that's the ticket.) and went out in the building corridor. Nobody else around. Another earthquake? Yawn. Wake me if Lindsey breaks parole.

The '87 quake hit when I was living on the top floor of a Hollywood apartment building from the 20s. (It's the building where John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson get the briefcase in PULP FICTION.) that shook like a chew toy in a 6-month-old terrier's mouth. Huge cracks. Plaster falling off the walls. The bookcases all dropped their loads. My apartment was yellow-tagged for two months, and no one was supposed to be there, but as they hadn't furnished me with somewhere else to live, I just ignored the "UNSAFE" notice on my door, and went on living there.

For the Northridge quake I was in Yosemite National Park. It was odd to wake up in the cabin, turn on the TV (Yes, when I go camping, I ROUGH IT! Which means walls, beds, roofs, indoor bathroom, cable TV and a kitchen.) and see back home hammered by a quake. We had to drive back that day. Of the 5 land routes into Los Angeles from the north, 4 were closed. The normally 6 hour drive took 12. There was an hour where we crept forward 4 miles in one hour. We were at each other's throats by the time that hellish drive was over.

And the building I'd lived in during the '87 quake was so badly damaged in '94's, that it was demolished. Fortunately, I no longer lived there.

But for me, the '71 Sylmar quake was the memorable one. I was working at KGIL as well as attending college, and KGIL was smack in the middle of it. I will never forget driving about the same neighborhoods where I now live, with Bill Smith in one of our mobile units, when it had been evacuated, and seeing these empty neighborhoods, the cops watching for looters, and the crumbling dam. I still have the LP that Bill put out of KGIL's coverage of that quake.

A couple days after the '71 quake, I was in my office at KGIL, talking to a friend in Texas, assuring him I was okay, when a severe aftershock hit, and cut off the phones. My friend in Dallas heard me say, "I think another one's starting now.", a rumbling sound, and the phone going dead in his hand. When he tried to call me, he got a recorded message about no phone lines to that area working. He was convinced he's just heard me die.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

The Paramount guy’s earthquake confusion reminds me obliquely of something that happened to a friend in New York about 20 years ago. We returned to his apartment after a gig (we were musicians) to find the front door open and his apartment robbed. When the cops arrived to take his statement one of them looked around, shaking his head and said to my friend, “Geeze, these bastards really did a number on you, huh?”

A stolen briefcase was the only thing moved.

JUST ME said...

Brooklyn tornado = lots of trash flying in the air.

...and pissed off homeless people.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the SF Bay Area during the big 1989 earthquake. My elderly father used to walk down to the local liquor store, buy whatever pint was on sale, drink it in their parking lot and expect that my mother wouldn't notice. He was on his way home during the earthquake. He must have thought that he had downed the most powerful drink ever invented.