Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Shaken, Not Stirred

Today is the 19th anniversary of the big  Loma Prieta quake. I hung my "I Survived" T-shirt on my cubicle wall. It's shrunk since 1989 and I haven't, otherwise I'd have worn it.

The quake hit at the end of the day, a little after 5 pm, and I was at work on the 2nd floor of the HP Response Center in Mountain View. I was a tech support engineer for anything HP made which printed, plotted or scanned. I got under the desk as a couple of dozen manuals fell out of the overhead shelf. We spent the next two days picking books up off the floor.

The building had been the Mayfield Mall, a small shopping center with a chain import store as its centerpiece. When HP bought the building, the city inspectors noticed it was not up to earthquake code, so instead of moving in as planned, HP totally rebuilt, and  allegedly brought the building up to code. Improvements included reinforced columns on the underground parking area, windows designed to have the glass fall outward if the quake was big enough, an external brick and cinder block building with an emergency power plant, and a huge,  allegedly earthquake-proof server room in the basement.

After the quake, there were cracks in the parking columns, and the area was closed, never to re-open. The quake was significantly stronger than what should have made the windows fall out, but they stayed in place. A good thing, because they would have wrecked cars and possibly people too. The emergency generator failed. It took several days for them to get it running again. Weird because they had fired it up a couple of days before. A water pipe broke in the server room, flooding it and killing the entire server farm. I'm not sure how long we were down, I think we piggy backed onto a mirrored site back east.

Getting home was a bitch. All the traffic lights were out, HP was located on Central Expressway just before it became Alma in Palo Alto.  I lived between Menlo Park and Redwood City, just off El Camino, about 3,784 traffic lights away. It took two hours. HP made a big mistake kicking us all out of the building, we would have been safer staying.

A combination of earthquake damage, HP mismanagement and greed closed down the campus (which was also the training center), a few years ago, and it is scheduled to be bulldozed and replaced by a housing project.

I don't remember any damage at the house. I rented the front half of a house which had been converted into two one-bedroom apartments.  I did not have any pets - I had given my cats to a friend in Felton because I was about to move out and travel for a month. He told me one of them ran away that day and was never seen again.  There may have been a book shelf emptied or fallen over, but I forget. This was before cell phones, so all land line circuits were tied up. I called my folks the next day.

The big news was the quake happened while the stadium was filling for the World Series, which was between the A's and the Giants that year. And a section of the Bay Bridge top roadway fell like a horizontal door onto the lower deck. And a chunk of the 880 (or was it still Hwy 17?) viaduct top roadway fell onto the bottom roadway, squishing lots of people, 40+.

There was a lot of other building and road damage, downtown Santa Cruz was toast, as was much of central Watsonville. More info can be found on wikipedia here.

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