The Paso Robles Earthquake, December 22, 2003
The Paso Robles Earthquake, December 22, 2003
Earthquakes come without warning.They strike when they are the farthest thing from your mind. I am going to tell you about the day the earth shook up my little piece of ground in Templeton, California. Paso Robles got more publicity, but where I live in Templeton was actually closer to the epicenter. So that you will better understand the pictures I took, you should know that I'm a bookseller. So the books you see falling everywhere are the some of the ones I had listed and ready to sell on line. The earthquake, as you might imagine, was a major disruption to my business.
Earthquakes Had Never Been a Big Deal to Me
December 22 started out pretty normally. I was tired because we had just finished celebrating our Slava on December 19. After Slava every year it's all I can do to get myself ready for Christmas, but Mom was still living then, and we were preparing to celebrate her birthday on December 23. Meanwhile, I had an appointment with a local customer at the warehouse, a two-block walk, for 11:30. I left my upstairs office about 11:10 to get ready to walk out there and get ready for my customer. As I was standing in the kitchen, about to leave, I felt the earth start to shake.
I have lived in California all my life. Earthquakes have always been a part of that life. Every now and then, the earth trembles, maybe a hanging lamp moves a bit, and you wait a minute for things to settle down. I had never considered earthquakes as something to really fear since I'd never personally been hurt by them. The bad ones always happened somewhere else.
Warehouse After the EarthquakeClick thumbnail to view full-size
This Earthquake Was Different
One minute everything was normal. The next minute the contents of the house were a disaster. It was lucky we were at home. The hat rack about eight feet from the front door fell right in front of it, making it impossible to open. Besides that, some of the books which had been stacked on the staircase came crashing down in the same area in front of the door. It's fortunate my husband was standing in front of the China cabinet, and he was able to keep it from crashing down. The sliding glass door off the kitchen is the only other exit, and it doesn't lock and unlock from the outside. So had we been gone with the front door locked, we would have had to break in.
All this happened in a flash. One minute we had plans. The next minute they changed drastically.My office computer is in my bedroom. I had two file cabinets (two-drawer) stacked on each other about two feet from the door, which opened in. One fell off and blocked the door so I couldn't open it. There is an indoor window above my bed -- the only other way in -- and it was jammed shut. Inside, I could hear the phone off the hook. My computer was still on. I could not get to my clothes, my medications, or anything else in the room. Everything on the top shelf of my desk fell onto my desk or the floor.
Of course, we had our cell phones, so I managed to call my customer and cancel the appointment. I was afraid to even look at the warehouse. It was a while before I could because things had also fallen to block that door. When someone stronger than I was finally there to help, part of what I saw is in the introduction picture. The rest of it is in the photo gallery below.
There was also a lot of damage in the house. - My upstairs has a long hall that leads to the bedrooms and bath. It's lined with bookscases.Click thumbnail to view full-size
We Were Lucky. It Could Have Been Worse
We really weren't prepared at all for this earthquake. Neither was Paso Robles. It is fortunate only two people died. Had it been a bit worse more buildings could have collapsed and the utilities been more affected. Our house was practically on the fault. I hope I'll be more prepared if the next one hits.
The kit below isn't just for earthquakes. It will help in any natural disaster you may face of a common kind. You know by now that the government probably won't come to your aid very soon. So you have to plan on meeting your own needs for at least the first three days.
Life After the Earthquake
Help from the Family
Fortunately, my younger brother and his teen-aged son were in town for Mom's birthday and the Christmas holidays. I had talked Mom into trying out a senior residence not far from her home in Paso Robles for a three-month period, but she came back home for my brother's visit so they could all spend more time together. That meant an apartment was empty temporarily for me to sleep in and have breakfast while I was getting my room back together.
The day after the earthquake my brother and my younger nephew came and helped me clear a path to my bedroom/office. This involved picking up the fallen books and then getting the bookcases upright again. This was especially difficult because I store books on hold on top of the shelves. Some of these fell behind, and these had to be retrieved before the bookcases would stand up again.
Meanwhile, out at the pump house, there was some damage to the plumbing that needed to be fixed immediately. The same kind friend who broke into my bedroom to let me in also fixed that damage so we'd continue to have water. We were able to eat most of our meals with the extended family at Mom's house, and I still had a few days after Christmas to work at home by day and take advantage of Mom's apartment at night. It's interesting that at Mom's she barely felt the quake and she had no damage at all. We were only seven miles apart. The senior residence was about a mile farther east, and there was no damage there, either.
My Attitude Toward Earthquakes Has Changed
It took a while for FEMA to come assess the damage, and it was determined we didn't have enough to make a claim. A lot of damaged books had to be written off inventory, and repairs at the warehouse continued for months, as did getting the house almost back to normal. I'm thankful this didn't happen during my busy season in the summer and fall.
Since the earthquake, I've never been able to take them casually again. At the first shake, I come down if I'm upstairs. I've been keeping water and some provisions up here in case I ever get trapped. I have never felt secure enough to have the door put back on.
My damage was only to property. I was fortunate. Two women in Paso Robles lost their lives when buildings fell on them. The links below will give you some basic reporting of the earthquake and also some other eyewitness accounts and the pictures others have taken of the downtown area in Paso Robles and some of the progress being made in restoring the downtown. One thing you will read about that took years to restore is the parking lot that was destroyed by the eruption of the sulfur hot springs. Every time one visited the library or city hall, the smell of took sulfur was a reminder of that historic day. Fortunately, they finally got it fixed.
Some of Our Local Damage
Earthquake Felt in Templeton California on June 20, 2009
A rude awakening!
You don't want to wake up the way I did at 5:32 AM -- hearing a loud crash that almost jolts you out of bed. I jumped out of bed and ran for the doorway. I huddled under it for a few seconds, waiting to see if more would follow. I saw that some of my books stacked in the hallway had fallen, but fortunately, none of the bookcases had, as they did last time. Kevin Will, the owner of our local radio station, KPRL, must have dressed quickly and rushed to the station. With a few minutes he was breaking into the regular broadcast to tell us it was a 4.5 quake centered about 8 miles S, SW of Lake Nacimiento, CA. That is about 15 miles west of Paso Robles, meaning it was also very near where I live in Templeton, CA, since as the crow flies, we are about two miles south of the Paso Robles downtown area.
After things seem to calm down, I picked the books up and put them back and returned to bed, hoping to get some more sleep. Sleep, however, did not come quickly, since I was still concerned about aftershocks. I prayed, and finally fell back to sleep, re-awaking at 9:45, still pretty groggy -- so much so I forgot to turn into Trader Joe's when doing my Saturday shopping, and I was on the southbound onramp of 101 before I realized it. Had to get off at next stop and turn around to get to TJ's, and then on to Farmer's market.
It's normal to have aftershocks after the earthquake is over.
Buildings Restored Since Video Was Made
Update, June 21, 2009
Aftershocks of the June 20, 2009 Earthquake
There was an aftershock at 10:55 AM June 20, that registered 3.3 magnitude, but I didn't feel it. I did feel the 2.2 quake that occurred just as I was falling asleep at 12:08 this morning. It was only four miles west of Templeton, which is probably why I felt it more than the aftershock yesterday, which although stronger, was farther away. There's nothing quite like a pronounced earthquake to spoil that twilight zone when you are almost asleep. You wonder if it's really safe afterward, or whether you ought to stay on the alert for more. I hope we are pretty well through this round of shaking. I need my sleep.
My Bedtime Prayer in Earthquake Country
Check Out These Links for More Information on this Earthquake.
I've tried to offer a variety of links, from objective reporting to first hand accounts. Most of them have pictures I do not have of what happened in Paso Robles.
- Clock Tower right after earthquake.
The clock tower is one landmark that represents Paso Robles to a lot of people. This shows it right after the earthquake.
- This is the clock tower after it was rebuilt.
Between the Before and After pictures, this missing building stood out along with many other buildings as evidence the city was incomplete and business could not go on as usual. Instead the center of downtown was mostly barricaded until all the build
- This is another personal account.
This one is from someone who experienced the quake from Cal Poly, which is about 30 miles south of Paso Robles. He adds more pictures.
- An engineering perspective
It includes a map showing the epicenter.
What is your perspective on the earthquake?
This poll is to provide information on how aware you were of the quake and whether it affected you in any way.
What was your experience of the San Simeon / Paso Robles earthquake?
Keeping up with the Activity on the San Andreas Fault
I will continue to update this section when more news of fault activity that could affect California becomes available.
- Rising tremor activity may mean more earthquakes ahead on San Andreas Fault
This article mentions an earthquake in 2003 preceded by tremors deep underground. I wonder if that was the Paso Robles quake.
- Study on How Sun and Moon May Relate to Tremors Below the Earth's Surface
Although this may be temporarily duplicated in the news section below , which is automatically generated, I wanted to keep it here for when that disappears.
Whether you experienced this earthquake or another one, or maybe none at all, I'd like to know your thoughts. If you are an eyewitness,please consider sharing your own experience.