`I've never seen one that lasted so long'
Haya El Nasser;Jonathan T. Lovitt
YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. - Dane Huusfeldt considers himself an old hand at
riding out California's most famous natural disaster.
But even he has the shakes now. ``This earthquake was not normal,'' says
Huusfeldt, 38. ``It was like Armageddon.''
Two giant quakes, unrelated but within 25 miles of each other, gave Southern
Californians vicious wake-up calls Sunday. They rattled even the toughest quake
``I've been through so many earthquakes I can't count them,'' Huusfeldt says. ``I
hate to sound that radical, but I've never seen one that lasted so long.''
Generally, after any quake, Californians rush to their phones to check on friends
and relatives. Then they push the glasses back on the cupboard shelves,
straighten out the pictures on the walls and get on with their lives.
Not this time. Now, people are truly scared - and all the more anxious after a
tumultuous year of insect invasions, budget crises, drought, floods and race riots.
``It just feels like it's always something,'' says Connie Moser, 41, a Los Angeles
technical writer who has lived in California since she was 9. ``First the economy,
then the riots happen, then the quake but not just one quake but back-to-back
Said Gov. Pete Wilson after declaring a state of emergency in Riverside and San
Bernardino counties: ``I think we're in hard times. This just compounds it.''
Everyone is shaken. ``I used to live in the Bay Area and I've felt big earthquakes
before, but nothing close to this,'' says Roger Stockman, owner of Grubstake Inn
in Landers, near the epicenter of the first one.
``It was like a monster picked us up and shook us, and shook us and shook us.''
Says Moser, ``This one really got my heart beating.'' And by late Sunday she still
couldn't get quakes off her mind. ``My first inclination is to just pack up and
move but we have to stay where the jobs are.''
The rolling temblor that shook Yucca Valley was the worst in many residents'
lifetimes. It hit on the same, unnamed fault that triggered April's 6.3 Joshua Tree
Both quakes triggered a dizzying series of aftershocks. And both were
dangerously close to the San Andreas Fault - likely to one day cause the dreaded
Even scientists couldn't offer much comfort. ``We just don't know, but today's
the day to worry about it,'' said Lucy Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey
seismologist. ``We've got an 8 waiting to happen.''
The state promptly issued an unusually ominous warning: ``We are experiencing
a robust aftershock sequence and expect the earthquakes to continue.''
``I don't think I'd be as worried if I hadn't heard that,'' Moser says.
State emergency officials asked people to stay off roads most of the day.
Scientists said there was a 50% chance of another quake above 6 on the Richter
scale sometime during the next week.
College student Chander Erickson, 20, of Big Bear decided to stay at an
emergency shelter at the high school rather than sleep at home. ``The place
almost crashed down on me,'' she says. ``It's going to be a long time before I can
get a good night's sleep.''
Some things will never be the same. Seismologists say the earth slipped by as
much as 18 feet along the fault line. By mid-day Sunday, more than 40
aftershocks of magnitude 3.7 or more rolled through the region - along with
hundreds of smaller ones.
There were few casualties, thanks mainly to the area's sparse population. But if
these quakes are warning signs that the San Andreas Fault is ready to rupture -
which could produce a quake close to Los Angeles - the toll could be staggering:
an estimated 14,000 killed, 55,000 injured.
So once again, the sinister specter of the ``Big One'' looms, creating plenty of
fear along the fault lines.
Residents of Yucca Valley fled their homes. At a trailer park, people abandoned
their mobile homes without even bothering to shut the door. In the San
Bernardino National Forest, campers were fleeing by the thousands, jamming
roads and freeways back to Los Angeles.
``This is only the beginning,'' says Mary Gualtieri, 71, who immediately decided
to head to Arizona to stay with her daughter. ``Sleep there tonight? ... Go
through this again? No way,'' she says.
The quakes were felt as far away as Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Tourists
who happened to be in the state got an unforgettable memento.
Barbara Matthews, of Oakton, Va., was visiting friends in Lake Arrowhead for
the weekend - her maiden trip to California.
``Coming from the East Coast ... we're used to danger from the sky,'' she says.
``It's so strange to sit there on an absolutely glorious day because you know the
whole thing can fall apart from underneath you.''
Says Thelma Wilson, whose husband suffered chest pains after the 7.4 quake:
``You can't run. You can't hide. You just stay and eventually it stops.''
Even Los Angeles clinical psychologist Daniela Alloro, who's treated quake
trauma cases, was jittery. ``Really, if you think, to some extent we can avoid
other areas of danger. But when we're talking about earthquakes, we cannot get
away. That's the scary part. People feel totally helpless. There is no way out.''
For some, the only way out was out of state. ``I'm going back today,'' said New
Yorker Marilyn Granger, who was visiting Los Angeles. ``It was like being in
the bowels of the subway. ... I won't stay here now.''
Frances Wilson moved here from Chicago this spring. Having already lived
through three major quakes, she's ``ready to go back.''
But not everyone has that option. Californians who can't avoid the threat of more
shaking and rolling rushed to do what they could to minimize the impact of
``People are scared,'' said Richard Orjal, a customer service representative at a
Van Nuys Builders Emporium store. ``Everything is flying out of here -
flashlights, wrenches to turn the gas off, lots of water.''
That, says psychologist Alloro, is not a bad coping mechanism. ``It makes you
feel somewhat under control . . instead of sitting and turning into a panic.'' She
spent her Sunday taping windows and restocking her water supply. ``I did my
best and I'm not totally out of control.''
But many tragedy weary Southern Californians are taking earthquakes in stride.
``We lived through the riots, we can live through the earthquakes,'' says Louis
Smith, 29, a Los Angeles janitor.
Even William Peterson, 32, of Baldwin Hills, whose apartment building suffered
cracks, says: ``It's all part of life. Michigan has tornadoes. The `Big One' will
happen one day or another.''
Says Hector Conte, 33, an electrician from Reseda: ``No damage. No problems.
Just another quake.''
Contributing: Eric Barad, Mary-Ann Bendel, Jim Brooks, Carolyn Pesce,
CUTLINE:DIGGING OUT: Brett Whitson watches his footing as he jacks up his
car to get its rear wheel out of a fissure on Route 247 north of Yucca Valley. The
area was hit by two major earthquakes Sunday. CUTLINE:IN LOS ANGELES:
Zenaida Macias, right, feels the shock wave of a second earthquake Sunday.
With her is Rosa Gomez, holding son Francisco.
PHOTO;color,Gerard Burkhart,Reuters;PHOTO;b/w,Joe Pugliese,Los Angeles
Times via Reuters