5-Year Anniversary

While walking along a path through UW, passing Husky Stadium yesterday, I noticed that the crows were agitated, and hundreds of the cawing birds took flight, turning the sky into an Escher drawing. I started to ruminate on the strange actions of animals, and suddenly my mind was full of strong and ominous thoughts of earthquakes, since some strange animal behavior is said to foreshadow such events.

Then I realized that we are perched on the 5-year anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake, and it all came into focus. That was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience for native Northwesterners. For me, it was just a prelude for what was to come. I was working for a tech startup that was ready to tank, and that day would have been our last if the earthquake hadn’t interrupted the layoff proceedings.

Everyone was rather sobered (no pun intended) by the news of the previous night’s Mardi Gras riots in Pioneer Square. Although things were fairly quiet that morning on the top floor of a 2nd Avenue building, we were quite used to moving and shaking – large trucks often rumble down that street, rattling the windows, and our code jockeys on the floor below us were inclined to shake us up during their Nerf gun fights. But those usually happened in the afternoon when there was steam to blow.

Truth be told, by the time we realized it was an actual earthquake, it was already halfway over. But the real clue was the dust and paint that started to fall from the ceiling, and we got that rolling action that we knew couldn’t possibly have come from the guys downstairs.

Of course, we did exactly what one shouldn’t do during a tremor: we ran down the stairwell to the street. Fight or Flight doesn’t translate well in situations where your choices are Stand In A Doorway or OMGWTFRUN, especially when you’re not quite sure if this century-old building is going to stay upright. Though, I’m sure that’s a lack of experience in earthquakes speaking.

We went home, of course. We weren’t sure if our building was safe for us to return. I took a couple pictures as I walked up the Hill to Broadway. Construction workers had ceased their work near the Paramount, and were milling around on the street in their hardhats, waiting for possible aftershocks. (Clicking the photos will take you to a larger version.)

The facades of several of the older brick buildings just east of the freeway were lying in heaps of rubble on the sidewalk. I got home, and a glass vase had fallen off of its shelf, but that was the extent of the damage for me. I proceeded to round up all my friends for an “Aftershock Party.”

Our office building didn’t fall down, but we came in the next day to desks and computers covered with dust, and a bit of a cracked up ceiling. When we walked in (late, I might add), people were packing up their personal effects, and we were debriefed and given our severence checks. My life had just become a little more complicated than it had been the day before.

How was it for you?

February 28, 2001, 10:54 AM
Magnitude of 6.8
Depth of 52 km
Hypocenter 17.8 km NE of Olympia.

Links of interest:
· Nisqually Earthquake Clearinghouse
· King County Response
· Seattle Times Archive

3 Comments so far

  1. Drury (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

    I was working at DeLaurenti’s down in the market. After the shaking stopped and we returned to the store, we had to clean up the floors which were COVERED with a slick lake of fine olive oils, hot sauces, vinegars, wine and glass.

    The weird thing was that customers kept trickling in to shop, even though the floor was slick as ice and the entire staff was on all fours. One well dressed woman carrying shopping bags stood in front of the spice and chocolate counter, stunned looking, reflexively obeying her bodies need to seek normalcy and shop during a crisis. She stared at me blankly across the counter for a while, eventually bought a half pound of Valrohna and then wobbled out the door.

  2. Ryan (unregistered) on February 28th, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

    It’s stunning to me that it’s been 5 years. I was one of those that OMGWTFRAN out of a dilapidated building in the Denny Regrade that I was certain was going to come down all around me. Then my buddy sold rubble from Pioneer Square on eBay and donated the proceeds to charity which garnered him some attention by the MSM. They eat that stuff up.

  3. QC webwrangler (unregistered) on March 3rd, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

    I got a late start to work at an eastside startup which was also in the slow process of going belly-up. When the quake struck, I was alone on the west side platform of Westlake Station in the bus tunnel.

    I saw an awful lot of decorative marble above and beside me and the chandeliers were shaking wildly. I strunched myself up into a small alcove in the wall that seemed to provide some protection from anything that might fall.

    Decorative lenses on the huge hanging chandelies started to pop out. A few of the glass lenses also fell out and shattered on the roadway.

    Because I was looking down the length of the roadbed, I could see a wave rolling through the concrete bed. Right when it was fully in play, a southbound bus pulled in across from me. I could see a good deal of confustion among the full load of riders who seemed to slowly realize that this was something more than just a too-quick stop by the driver.

    Sitting in that cubby-whole, it seemed to have taken a lot longer than the official length. I finally rushed out and mingled along with those workers near the Paramount who had been up in the unfinished Elliot Hotel.

    I walked far enough up the street to get a view of the brick building I live in. I was surprised to see that it was still standing, but I was afraid to get any closer, so I got on the next bus to Bellevue once they had started running again.

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