Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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My natural disaster is bigger than your natural disaster

Thursday, April 29, 1965, 8:30 am I was sitting in German class at Rainier Beach high school, daydreaming, looking out the window across the lawn to Lake Washington when the teacher screamed and ran out of the room. Several students got up and walked to the doorway and parked themselves under the arch. The desks were not built for duck-and-cover. I just sat there and watched the waves on the lawn and got a little seasick from the school building gently rocking - it was built on a concrete slab on fill. It took about 15 minutes for it to settle down. I'm pretty sure it was business as usual after the German teacher calmed down.

We had just moved to Seattle in January, so I asked the kid next to me how often they had these things. "How long have you lived here?" he asked. "Almost five months" I answered. He told me they had them about every 6 months.

We went home in the afternoon to watch TV, especially the broadcast from the Space Needle, which was still swinging too much for the elevators to run, stranding the morning show crew.

Sunday, May 18, 1980, also about 8:30 am, Mt. St. Helens erupted while I was in Seattle, and though there was no direct effect in the city, I worked for a company which maintained and repaired electronic gear (cash registers, ATMs, etc.) around the state, and for the next week we were sent to places a little out of our area to blow the mica-laden granite dust out of some machines. I got a chance to repair my first ATM, one in which ash ground off the magnetic stripes from the credit cards.

At the weekend I drove to Omak to see some friends, and on Sunday the 25th at 2:30 am the mountain blew again, and my boss called at about 9 to ask me to stop in Yakima on my way home to work on some other machines. As I was heading to I-90 back to Seattle, the nice man on the radio said the interstate was closed at the pass, due to volcanic ash, so I took the great circle route down 97 to 84 to Portland, and up I-5. I stopped at the Toutle River bridge an collected a few sackfuls of ash. The mud line on the trees (from the flood) was about 30 feet above the freeway.

So on October 17, 1989, when I was in the HP Response Center in Mountain View and the building started shaking, I was already a veteran. It was a brand new building which had been razed and totally rebuilt to be earthquake-proof. Hah! I ducked under my desk, and when the shaking stopped the whole floor in a cubicle farm as big as a Walmart was covered with manuals which had fallen off the shelves - even the covered shelves. They had told us the big 20-foot-tall plate glass windows were designed to fall outward so people inside the building would not be hurt by them, but that also meant smashing cars in the rooftop parking lot and crunching people on the sidewalk below. Fortunately the windows stayed in place. Our back-up generator failed, a water main broke, flooding the server room, and one of the columns of the earthquake-poof underground garage cracked. No one in our building was hurt. Traffic lights were out, and it took 2 hours to drive home about 3 miles. We spent the next three days putting books back on shelves.
Tags: disasters, shaking

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