Senator Barbara Boxer has posted an online guide to earthquake preparedness. I like the fact that she is trying to help people prepare for disaster, but I find it curious that she does not point people to the FEMA pages, or use the same content with localized additions. FEMA has about 45 states classified as earthquake prone; is there anything special about California that they need their own “how to prepare” site? I noted that the navigation bar on the left side of Boxer’s page has “California” links, but nothing that points to the rather helpful FEMA information. I wonder how many other states have decided to create this information (stockpile water and food, keep a radio and flashlight ready, etc.) instead of sharing.
I thought Garrison Keillor did a particularly poetic job when he put the 1906 quake in perspective:
A San Francisco journalist named James Hopper said, “The earthquake started … with a direct violence that left one breathless. … There was something personal about the attack; it seemed to have a certain vicious intent. My building quivered with a vertical and rotary motion and there was a sound as of a snarl. … My head on the pillow, I watched my stretched and stiffened body … springing up and down and from side to side like a pancake in the tossing griddle of an experienced French chef.”
That must be a reflection of the period. It seems to me that pancakes are the last thing anyone today would expect from an experienced French chef. Anyway, Keillor continues:
A policeman said, “[The streets] began to dance and rear and roll in waves like a rough sea in a squall, [then] sank in places and vomited up car tracks and the tunnels that carried the cable. These lifted themselves out of the pavement, and bent and snapped.”
Evidence of literate policemen? I am a firm believer that poetry was the norm in 18th and early 19th century America and it was not uncommon for every sector of society to try and find a perfect turn of phrase; a favorite passtime. Keillor moves from the policeman’s prose to a different voice:
The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso had performed at San Francisco’s Grand Opera House the night before, and he woke up in his bed as the Palace Hotel was falling down around him. He stumbled out into the street, and because he was terrified that that shock might have ruined his voice, he began singing.
There was a loud sound of an explosion as the city gas plant blew up. Wooden structures caught fire from overturned stoves and immediately began to burn. The fire department went out to fight the fires, only to find that the city had lost all of its running water. Firemen attempted to stop the spread of fire by dynamiting whole city blocks, but despite their efforts the fire raged for three days and most of the city burned to the ground.
More than 500 city blocks and more than 28,000 buildings were in ruins. Some 250,000 people were left homeless. Nearly 3,000 people died. Americans mourned the loss of San Francisco, one of the country’s greatest cities. The journalist Will Irwin wrote in the New York Sun, “The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest-hearted, most pleasure-loving city of this continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of huddled refugees living among ruins. … San Francisco is the city that was.”
So, get that food and water ready.