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Earthquake Survival
updated: Mar 29, 2014, 7:21 PM

By RexOfSB

In the wake of the two recent earthquakes in LA, does anyone have memorable stories about earthquakes in the Santa Barbara area?

I was in second grade during the 1952 Tehachapi quake which hit Santa Barbara with some force. Plastic containers were pretty much unheard of in those days, so glass bottles shattered on the floors of virtually every local market. The main problem, though, was the shattered ammonia bottles, which filled the stores with toxic fumes that really slowed cleanup. (Can you even buy ammonia any more?)

My mom told me that right after the disastrous 1925 earthquake, a lot of folks--her family included--chose to sleep outdoors for a few days, for fear of aftershocks. Knowing my relatives, I'm sure they were well-fortified with libations of the alcoholic variety, which would have given them the ability to view the whole experience as a jolly camping outing.

The power was out in SB immediately following the Northridge quake, and no one knew when it might be restored. Mrs. Rex and I were hungry, however, so I did a little phoning around and found out that Lompoc was unaffected. We drove there for breakfast, spent the rest of the morning at WalMart and a few thrift shops, then continued on to Solvang to buy pastries. The power was back by the time we got home.

We are NOT survivalists. In times of a real emergency we'll most definitely starve, since I'm sure our electric can opener won't work and we won't be able to get at our macadamia nuts, tinned asparagus spears and olives. Since neither of us smoke, I don't think we even own a book of matches. I truly hope we don't have to eat the Huskies.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 CARPWALKER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:06 PM

I can only remember in 1994, not being able to grind my coffee beans because we were without power. I tried grinding them with a rolling pin.It didn't work. My coffee didn't happen for 18 hours. This, my most memorable moment!


 COMMENT 507073P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:24 PM

My wife and I bought a small business and poured our heart and soul into refurbishing it. To save money (or rather, because we didn't have any money) we did everything ourselves. On January 10th 1994 we started installing wood floors in our store. Very much a trial and very much an effort. We finally got the hang of it and on the evening of January 16th they were complete and beautiful. Though the glue still had to cure. Early the next morning we woke up mid tremblor looking at each other in fright as it was a long shake. Both of us yelling "Our floor! Our floor". I know this doesn't compare to the real devastation and lives lost in the Northridge earthquake. But it's our story and one that we'll remember forever.


 COMMENT 507075 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:26 PM

Carpwalker, that was the Northridge quake and it was definitely felt in SB. Some power stations in LA were damaged and created a power outage in SB. I was bummed about my coffee too! Most businesses here were
shut down, even gas stations. We got a taste of what what it is like to go without the things you take for granted. It seemed like an eternity before things started feeling okay again.


 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:30 PM

If 1978 quake had happened on a week day, not a Sunday, it would have been awful...
Multiple metal cabinets full of hardware fell toward my desk/the back of my chair. I counted and sorted parts in an electronics stock room for weeks.
It was a 5.2

Landers, in the desert, which didn't hurt anyone, scared the CRAP out of me; my place in SB shook like hell, windows, closet doors, walls.

I can't remember the details of my personal Northridge experience in SB, just the horror on TV. I know I felt it and went to tv right away. Pancaked buildings; gas fires atop flooded streets. Have a friend who lost everything but her life.


 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:33 PM

yes, I thought my power might have been out after Northridge. But I know I was glued to tv as soon as I could be.
A horror we're familiar with, wildfires scare me even more, and I cannot imagine living in tornado alley. Well, if I had no choice and a basement, maybe.
Rex, thanks for being so honest about your preparation. Mine gets better every year, but just buy some kits!


 COMMENT 507082 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:44 PM

Oh yeah... It was the Northridge quake, and my friends Kiana, Fabrice & I were camping up at White Rock. They were in a tent and I was sleeping in my VW bus. About 4:30 am, i was vaguely awakened by the sensation of my bus being shaken. My first thought was that the emergency brake had slipped, and that i was rolling down the hill. In my half-sleep, i braced myself for impact with a tree. When i looked out the windows, i saw that the bus wasn't moving, so then my mind went to "a bear is shaking my van!" so i popped my head out the sunroof to look for the bear, and at that moment i noticed all the trees in the campsite swaying back & forth. At the same moment, i heard various other campers stirring awake and shouting "Eatrhquake!!" A moment later, i turned to look toward Kiana & Fabrice's tent at the exact moment that Fabrice tumbled out of the tent, with his pants around his ankles, and tumbled ass-over-head down a small embankment.

The strangest part was, we were up in the semi-wilderness and had NO idea how severe the quake might have been. For all we knew, Santa Barbara was in ruins, or perhaps Los Angeles or San Francisco had been wiped off the map. The next morning we hurried to the Paradise Road store and heard the scuttlebut that there had been a major quake in Northridge. It was a strange camping trip.


 AUNTIE S. agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:52 PM

7078, the power outage caused by the Northridge quake was what inspired me to prepare my "earthquake kit" with extra clothes, can of Sterno, paper plates, etc (and yes, cigs) plus CASH. I realized (or was told) that things like cash registers in grocery stores, credit card machines as well as other electronic machines wouldn't work - so cash was a handy thing to have and we were back to the days before credit cards. Now my "earthquake kit" has served me well every time I have to evacuate due to a brush fire, and the cash is my handy-dandy private in-home bank when I need money.


 COMMENT 507087P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:54 PM

And '85, Loma Prieta in San Francisco. I was watching the game.


 COMMENT 507091P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 08:58 PM

Auntie S., very smart. I totally agree about the cash. 100 SINGLES might be best, but I have smaller than 20's and larger than ones. I stocked up my mom and me about a month ago. Don't touch it, it will be needed.


 COMMENT 507095P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 09:19 PM

In the early 70's I was living in IV near a field. My very trustworthy dog needed to go out to pee early in the morning. Instead of peeing and returning, he just took off this time. I had to give chase to catch him and I didn't understand this atypical behavior. I was at work about an hour later at AMC, and the lights started swinging on their suspension cables and the large main assembly area heaved. It was spooky.

In the 60's, I was at the beach and the sand looked like a whole herd of gophers were burrowing in shallow sand, creating waves of sand. The only reported damage, as I recall, were some boulders that fell down on 154, but it certainly felt like it was powerful. In those days, tsunamis weren't a concern of the general population and none of us evacuated in the event of water catastrophe.


 COMMENT 507098P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 09:30 PM

At work, in the 1978 quake, we had a nearly full glass water bottle somersault from the cooler and land upright on the carpet, spilling hardly anything. However, the full bottles sitting in the corner next to each other banged together and cracked, leaking all over the place.


 COMMENT 507099 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-29 09:42 PM

1978 - Installing new stereo cassette deck in convertible...car started rocking pretty hard; told my buddies to knock it off. Then looked up & saw the telephone poles swaying & the street rolling mildly.

1994 - Second floor of townhouse, whole building started rocking pretty hard; could hear the timbers cracking. The girls were hysterical...'stop freaking out' !

Have also been in the middle of several major fires. Auntie S. has good advice; when it hits, it's already too late to prepare. Get some necessitates tucked away including water, food, cash, coffee, and cigarettes; I don't use coffee or tobacco, but there's a whole lot of people who do, and you bet they're going to get unsettled without any. Not to mention what all the drug dependent people will do in that situation.

And of course the military just happens to have a 'disaster scenario exercise' going on right now..what a coincidence!

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Exercise Program National Exercise Program
Capstone Exercise 2014
Scenario Ground Truth



 COMMENT 507105P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 12:03 AM

I've been living through SoCal quakes for over 50 years, and remember all the big ones. They're always scary at the time, but fascinating afterwards.

1978 SB quake, I somersaulted over a hedge to avoid a porch light crashing down on me. My best friend had a bunch of kids up at Red Rock, and knew their parents would be worried, so tried to get them back to town. She had to go via Gaviota to get them home, as the pass was closed for a time, due to the falling rocks.

1994 Northridge quake we had plans for the day with friends, starting with breakfast at our house. We have a propane grill with burner on the deck, so the lack of electricity or natural gas for a few hours wasn't an issue. The land line phones still worked, so the friends called to make sure we were still on. We decided to go play anyway, since with no electricity or TV, it'd be at least a few hours until we knew anything.

When the friends were an hour late for breakfast, she claimed she'd been "ringing the doorbell for an hour!" When we were watching TV later, we were all fascinated when the LA newscasters looked alarmed and said, "Aftershock! Big one." It was even more fascinating when the same friend said "13 seconds" when we finally felt it. She'd been counting.

Having lived through major wildfires, earthquakes, and floods, it's a really good idea to have at least a rudimentary emergency kit if you live in SoCal. Water, food, reasonable shoes, a backpack, gloves. Everyone really does need to be able to survive on their own for at least 3-5 days.


 MESARATS agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 01:01 AM

The 78 quake some friends and I were here ran out to the back yard and it was a real "wow man, that was a trip" During the Norhtridge I was living and working down south and early am when the first one hit I jumped out of bed naked and for some stupid reason jumped on the dining room table to hold a big antique mirror from falling off the wall(stupid, I know) then rushed to the hospital early for my shift as a nurse. Mamy of the patients anof the non California MDs were pretty freaked out. The aftershocks were pretty strong and since the building was designed to move during quaks being on the top floor really moved. Just tried to keep people calm and relaxed. Patients and staff alike. Part of being in in CA. Prepared. Water and cash number one as ATMs and credit cards will not work. Don't forget food for the pets.


 COMMENT 507116 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 06:51 AM

1978. I was in Boston with my husband and small son. We had a hysterical 'phone call from my mother in law who was house sitting for us. All the kitchen and pantry cupboards had burst open, tossing down onto the floor a stream of glass, cooking oil, nuts, jams, sugar, and so forth. An unbelievably glutinous mess which she tackled with extreme reluctance.


 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 07:06 AM

Back in the early 80's I worked at the Akron where Whole Foods is now. The stairway that led to the 2nd floor where the employees lounge, Managers office, bathrooms were was very unstable or maybe it was my size. Everytime I ran up them they shook that part of the 2nd floor. Just before I entered the building there was a slow rocking 5.5 quake as I entered the stairwell I heard what sounded like someone exploding in the bathroom. The manager came out a few minutes later saying he thought he thought it was me running up the stairs, but then realized it was an earthquake and that got him alittle nervous it gave him the trots. I still laugh about that over 30 years later..


 COMMENT 507126 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 08:11 AM

Interestingly, I was working at a grocery store in 5 points during the 78 earthquake. Things were thrown off shelves with the sound of broken glass. Apples were rolling all over my produce department as I watched from the doorway. The last earthquake I really felt a few years ago was in of all places in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.


 COMMENT 507127 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 08:27 AM

1978 - we were visiting friends. My 3 year old was in their pool and my newborn in her basket on their livingroom rug. When the quake hit, I frantically tried to get my son out of the pool as he was being tossed against the side. He was fine, but when I went back into the livingroom, I discovered that a stone wall clock had fallen and missed my baby's head by inches. I'll never forget that sinking feeling!


 COMMENT 507128 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 08:31 AM

In 1978 my girlfriend and I were driving from SB to Goleta in her battered old Karmann Ghia. This car rattled and roared like a worn-out lawnmower.

We marveled at all the people pulling over to the freeway shoulders, many getting out of their cars. We craned our necks, wondering whether there must be a UFO they were seeing.

We got to our destination store, and were amazed to see so many people milling around the parking lot. We felt a bit clueless, as though we'd walked into a Twilight Zone episode. An employee outside the door greeted us with "Hey, you can't go in there!"

We inquired as to why not, and he must have thought we were putting him on. He asked where we had just been and whether we knew that we'd just had an earthquake. He told us that more or less everything in the store was now scattered on the floor.

That was about 20 months after I'd moved to SB from the midwest, and I was pretty disappointed to have missed my first quake.


 COMMENT 507131 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 08:42 AM

78' inside the walk-in freezer at Bonanza Sirloin Pit. Thought I was moving fast schlepping tubs of cherry tomatoes for the salad bar. Stood still and saw the fridge racks swaying back and forth. Excitedly I ran out and said "earthquake!" and saw the tubby manager trying to hide under a countertop. Patrons that ran outside said they saw the pavement undulate like a wave. Raised not to fear quakes but to be prepared. Always look for exits and what to get under vs stay away from…


 ARTFLUX agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 09:33 AM

The '78 quake on Sunday morning, I was out in the yard reading the Sunday paper when it hit. I dropped to my hands and knees, realising I was probably in the best place I could be, and screamed at my wife to get out of the house. The ground I was on was rolling like waves of plastic, and the whole house dancing, she coming down the stairs, from our deck, looked to me like Duchamp's "Nude Descending Staircase", so fragmented was the spectacle. I saw the cab of my Datsun pu jump a foot up beyond the retaining wall where it was parked.

The Northridge aftermath blew me away, when I drove through, because I had ridden horseback all through that area as a kid, when it was nothing but open fields and orchards, hardly even a fence. I hadn't been back since


 ROGER DODGER agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 11:05 AM

Back in 94 That one rolled me back and forth on the bed couldn't figure out what was going on till I saw the little lady laughing at me from the doorway..Pretty Powerful those quakes.


 COMMENT 507167 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 11:22 AM

wow...what a great read thus far..thanx. I am still contemplating the title of the home land security exercise. ..ground truth! I think they are trying to tell us something. ..earthquake technology anyone? HAARP?


 COMMENT 507185P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 01:07 PM

@171P: What troll?


 COMMENT 507187 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 01:19 PM

Beachbummer - good observation!

Capstone Exercise 2014
Scenario Ground Truth

Capstone means 'endgame', ground truth = martial law. It's false flag preparations, under the guise of major a earthquake in Alaska, followed by tsunami, etc.


Earthquake, tsunami, fire...whatever. The message is to get ready now, because you know the system is, and they're not coming to help.


 COMMENT 507188P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 01:33 PM

Capstone - is derived from the stone that "caps" off a structure - that is the top stone of a structure. This "top" position has led to literary use for similar situations - e.g. the peak of a person's career.

Here are some of the meanings stated in online dictionaries:
1. The top stone of a structure or wall; a finishing stone of a structure.
2. The crowning achievement; the culmination or acme.
3. (Building) one of a set of slabs on the top of a wall, building, etc
4. (Mountaineering) mountaineering a chockstone occurring at the top of a gully or chimney
5. A crowning achievement; peak: the capstone of his career.


 COMMENT 507191P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 02:02 PM

The comedian is in the house.


 COMMENT 507206 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 03:10 PM

The '78 Quake.

We were driving relatives around SB and were stopped at the light in front of La Cumbre Plaza.

As the car began to rock and sway my wife said, "Stop playing games with the gas and brake pedals."

Then, we noticed the traffic light swaying wildly. Looking at the by now "undulating" parking lot in the plaza, it looked as if someone was rolling a bowling ball underneath a carpet.

"Earthquake!" we all shouted and hightailed it to the Natural History Museum where a crowd was gathering to look at the seismograph.

5.8 and plenty of damage.


 COMMENT 507217P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 04:13 PM

Nope, the idiotic infowars devotee.


 COMMENT 507226 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 05:05 PM

1978 Quake: Grandma had just made fresh homemade chocolate cookies and left them on top of the stove to cool. She asked me not to touch them. Being only 10 years old I heard nothing more than "help yourself" and grabbed a couple to escape out the side door. Just as I reached for the door handle the quake hit. It sure seemed bigger than a 5.1 to me! Needless to say I was caught in the act so to speak.

Incidentally, my Mom owned a plaster craft store in the Orchid Bowl shopping center called Saturdays Child... everything in that shop was destroyed.


 COMMENT 507230 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 05:37 PM

I recall later ion the day of the Northridge quake, and for several days following, dogs in the neighborhood (Isla Vista) would start howling randomly, then a minute or two afterwards, we'd feel the long gentle wave motions from the larger (5.0+) aftershocks.


 COMMENT 507235 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 05:55 PM

during the 52 Tehachapi quake I was in a car with friends parked in front of a theater in SLO. We were waiting for a friend. When the car started rocking we thought the boys were playing a trick on the girls. About that time people started pouring out of the theater. We (fearless 15 yr olds) ran inside and saw the movie flashing off of walls and ceiling. It was really weird. Then someone started yelling earthquake!!! Get out!! so we did. Felt the others also but no special tales.


 COMMENT 507246 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 07:59 PM

The 1978 quake hit on my FIRST day in Santa Barbara. I had driven into town very late and went to sleep on the floor in my new empty second floor apartment. Was jolted awake Sunday morning with rocking and rolling! I had chosen Santa Barbara to live from a map. Had never been here and had never lived in California. What in the world! What a welcome to my new home! Yikes! Best decision I've ever made.


 COMMENT 507287P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 10:21 PM

78 We were out of town at a wedding and had to be told. I was 10, and I remember as we got closer to home, going thru the lights on the freeway seeing the car dealerships windows broken. Butts Buick stood out the most for me. We had left the dog home with a neighbor who was watching for our return. Everything above three feet was toppled over. Mom lost her precious teacup collection of 54 years and the fireplace never worked again.

94, ....Was up doing my job and literally thrown to the floor. Checked on things and met my father in the hall. The power was off and the News Press guy drove thru delivering the paper (what dedication, too bad the NP has gone down hill), and I had lived in that house for 45 years and I was afraid to go out and fetch it. Watched the TV, once power was restored and checked on family and friends. A adventure that once was enough for a lifetime.


 COMMENT 507288P agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-30 10:22 PM

In 1978 I was hiking (7 falls?) with a friend and 3 kids under the age of 7. The kids were splashing around in a pool. My friend and I were sitting on a huge rock above the pool. I thought it moved.....but forgot all about it until we got back into town and went to the grocery store. We didn't think anything of it when the first store was closed.....but got to wondering when the 2nd and 3rd ones were.....finally a sign on the door on the 3rd one. I woke up at 4:30 a. m. During the Northridge quake and went to my friend's house as prearranged. Thank god her niece and two kids were visiting from Northridge! Her apartment was trashed and there could have been some major injuries if they'd all been home. I was working on the second floor of a downtown building when the one that decimated the Bay Area hit (1989?). I felt the floor roll and immediately called relatives in Santa Monica and San Francisco because I didn't know where it had hit. I actually got through to two people in S. F. before the lines were jammed.....everyone was OK.


 COMMENT 507329 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-31 08:18 AM

I jumped out of bed during the Northridge quake and figured it must have been a big quake somewhere. I grabbed a transistor radio, went to my hallway, away from furniture and windows, and turned on KNX only to hear crashing noises! Lots of them. Finally, after what seemed like a long time, the announcer came on and said there had been a big quake.


 COMMENT 507345 agree helpful negative off topic

2014-03-31 09:51 AM

My dad and I were awake for the Northridge quake. We went to stand in an archway by our dining room. It was only after the quake stopped (and it was a long one), that we realized we were standing under a chandelier.

In 2011, I was in Boston during the quake that damaged the Washington monument. I was on the Subway, so only felt a little bump. But when I got out, there were tons of people standing on the sidewalks, and it was a business area. I thought there was a bomb threat. When I found out it was an earthquake, I asked why everyone was outside. When they found out I was from CA, they asked what we do during an earthquake at work. I said "get under the desk and then get back to work." Bars all served earthquake themed drinks that night. It was hilarious.


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