The Midwest has tornadoes, the East Coast has hurricanes and the West Coast has earthquakes – there’s something everywhere you go. With Tornadoes and Hurricanes at least you get some warning – maybe not much in some cases, but at least enough of a warning that something is heading in your direction. Earthquakes are nature’s little surprise – they happen when you least expect them, most of the time when you’re asleep and always when they are happening you think it’s The Big One. You try to get up and run but often you are knocked down – your balance is off and you feel as though your legs are made of rubber. Many times it’s accompanied by the sound of things smashing – and there are brilliant flashes of light. Those are transformers in your neighborhood, arcing, popping and plunging you into darkness. Oh swell – now you have no balance, and you can’t see. Your heart is pounding and every milligram of saliva has drained from your mouth.
And then it stops. You get up and you run for the front door, or you check to see what’s destroyed and you try to remember where you put the flashlight.
And then it starts again – and it stops. Every nerve in your body is shot – and if you’ve never been through one of these before you ask yourself if maybe hurricanes and tornadoes weren’t so bad.
Welcome to California.
In July of 1952, Southern California had its biggest earthquake since the infamous Long Beach Temblor of 1933. Small communities around the epicenter of Tehachapi were flattened and the jolt was felt all the way down to the Mexican border. It was big – and it was a reminder – a reminder that California has these things and still has these things and probably will always have these things and will never quite know when the next one will be. Oh, they are working on earthquake predictions – in some cases they say the ability to predict the next one is already here – but it gives a 20 second warning. At least it’s something – even if you are asleep.
So as a reminder that Earthquakes are part of living in California, or the West Coast for that matter – here is a documentary/discussion put together by radio station KNX in Los Angeles on July 27, 1952. It’s called The Earthquake Story and it tells of an all-too-familiar sequence of events; the earth moves, the panic sets in, the buildings crumble. It stops and then it starts again and the aftershocks can go on for years.
Very often it’s the one event in your life where you remember exactly where you were, what you were doing and how you were feeling. It makes that kind of impression.
And no one ever told you living in California was going to be dull. Here’s proof.