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Reacting to the shakes in California no laughing matter

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POSTED March 18, 2014 12:52 a.m.

Freaking funny.

That’s how one YouTube poster described KTLA-TV anchor Chris Schauble’s on-air reaction when Los Angeles was struck by a 4.4 Richter Scale earthquake on Monday.

Yeah, freaking funny. I bet that’s what the 42 people were thinking when the double-deck Nimitz freeway in Oakland collapsed and killed them during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Schauble and his co-anchor had a startled look on their face as the trembler hit. They immediately ducked under their desks as studio lights along with the rest of the building starting swaying.

More than  a few people on the Internet thought it was funny.

Bet that wasn’t the case for the 16 people who died in the Northridge Meadows apartment complex that pancaked during the Northridge Quake on Jan. 17, 1994. There were 57 deaths altogether, 5,000 injuries, and $20 billion in damages from that shaker in the Los Angeles Basin that had the one of the greatest ground acceleration movements ever recorded.

The TV anchors did exactly what you are supposed to do during a quake: duck and seek cover. Falling objects and collapsing buildings are the cause of virtually all deaths and injuries in an earthquake.

Calling what they did “freaking funny” would be the same as saying video of a family rushing to get into a storm cellar in an attempt to escape a twister heading their way was “freaking funny.”

Monday’s quake centered on an older fault that hasn’t been active in recent centuries. It was 900 times weaker than the Northridge catastrophe that came in at a magnitude of 6.7 and lasted four times as long.

That’s the thing about quakes. When they start you have no idea how long they will last or how intense they will get. The anchors deserve praise for doing the right thing.

As for some on the Internet who get their jollies off other people’s misfortunes, they’d probably type in  “LOL” if cell phones and the Internet had been around in 1937 to allow the instantaneous posting of footage of the Hindenburg disaster, complete with people plunging to their death as the airship blew up.

Earthquakes are no joke.

Live in California long enough and you’ll feel the earth move under your feet.

Back in 1975, it wasn’t funny to see a room of 40 adults in an older building complete with chandeliers empty and run outside during the 5.8 Oroville quake that rolled through Northern California for upwards of 20 seconds.

The Loma Prieta earthquake wasn’t a hoot either. The 1989 quake was 6.3 magnitude and shook the Bay Area  for almost 20 seconds with shock waves felt hundreds of miles away. When things stopped moving, 63 people were dead, 3,757 injured and 12,000 homeless. How’s that for laughs?

As with all earthquakes, without fail someone I know who lives east of the Rockies contacts me to say Californians are crazy to live “like that” meaning with the specter of earthquakes.

This time it came in a text.

Gee, where do I start? The Midwest has been hit with earthquakes during the past six months. In fact, the worst earthquake in the history of the United States is widely believed among experts to have been the New Madrid shaker in December of 1811. It is estimated to have hit 8.1 on the Richter Scale – by comparison San Francisco’s1906 quake came in at 7.8 – and was felt over a million square miles. Quakes have even occurred in New York over the years and most recently in Washington, D.C.

That said, California is where most of the shaking action takes place due to the relatively young geological state we live in, complete with three “high threat volcanoes” plus active volcanic fields in the eastern Sierra.

Among the “high threat” volcanoes, as identified by the U.S. Geological Survey, are Mt. Shasta that erupted last in 1786, Mt. Lassen that erupted in 1915 and nearby Medicine Lake that spewed lava 900 years ago. Don’t think they will erupt anytime soon? That’s what people around Mt. St. Helen in Washington thought. It erupted in 1980, killing 57 people, and caused $1.1 billion in property damage and dumped ash in 11 states and five Canadian provinces.

On the flip side, we aren’t graced with major hurricanes every year, dozens upon  dozens of tornadoes or paralyzing snow and deadly humidity.

Give me California any day.

And yes, if it is available I will dive for cover under a desk if I happen to get caught again in an earthquake that’s big enough to significantly move the ground.

I also promise not to make fun of video of people hanging on to street light poles in hurricane force winds or standing in front of what’s left of a home that was completely torn off the ground  and deposited across four counties in a tornado.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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