Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Red Tags in Blue Bird Canyon

Red tags are what are hung on your home [in California] when it's uninhabitable... dangerously so. Ready to fall down the hill dangerous. During this past very rainy winter, many homes didn't make it. In La Conchita, homes, and sadly people, were buried under thousands of tons of mud, alleviating the need to red tag. Here in Topanga, a handful of homes have been red tagged. And then today in Laguna Beach, part of Blue Bird Canyon started to slide. And the snap, crackle and pop of pipes bursting, power lines shorting and shattering plate glass windows was the horror that many families awakened to today as their homes slid off their moorings.

I'm always mentally running through the "what will I take from my house if there's a big canyon fire or an earthquake and I have only five minutes." Of course that's assuming there is time to think. If there's no time to think, I pray that I instinctively will put shoes on my feet. There are all sorts of earthquake drills that are taught to schoolchildren in this state and every now and then I review them. I know it will happen. It's not like I walk around constantly thinking of natural disastors, but fires and earthquakes do bear some thought.

Here are things you're supposed to do when the earthquake shakes:

Stay in the house. Stay in the house? Are you nuts...the house could fall down on me. I can see myself running out the door the minute this place starts shaking.

Drop, Cover and Hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Take cover under and hold onto a piece of heavy furniture or stand against an inside wall. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. Stay away from windows and doors. I know the duck and cover routine. I'm not a child of the 50s for nothing. Moving to a safe place in this house will be challenging. I will be trying to get away from skylights, which are everywhere. Most inside walls seem to have skylights. Oh great. Heavy furniture? I left that stuff in the cold midwest. The only heavyish thing I can get under is the kitchen table...made from the planks of a Scottish brewery or something romantic like that...trouble is, that table is under a 15 feet long x 8 feet wide skylight.

Never Take an Elevator! That is so completely obvious. After a scare in a Portuguese elevator about 25 years ago, I've been leery of lifts. I now take them, when necessary, but don't particularly like sharing them. I need lots of space and breathing room when I'm going up or down. So, 25 years ago, the children and I were headed down to the pool from our room on the 12th floor. The corridors in this hotel were narrow and carpeted in navy blue. The elevator was big enough for four and also carpeted in navy blue. We pressed the button, the elevator sped up to our floor and we innocently climbed aboard for the RIDE FROM HELL! It bucked and floundered up and down, stopping between floors...doors opening to concrete walls and high up you could see a foot of light and hear people and then the doors would crash shut and the ride would take off again. We were going too fast, that was obvious, and the stopping and starting, mid-flight, was horrifically frightening. Five minutes later we were deposited on the 12th floor...right back where we'd started. We took the stairs down to the pool and checked out of that place after our swim.

If you are in bed, stay there and protect your head with a pillow. That makes sense and seems like a logical reaction to stuff crashing around your room. What it doesn't say is DO NOT HANG PICTURES OVER YOUR BED. That should be obvious, too.

Outside you have to find a clear spot, away from buildings and power lines. Also you have to dorp and cover.

In the car you have to drive to a clear space and stop. Try and get away from tall buildings. Do not stop on overpasses, underpasses or bridges...

So, if you can remember to think rationally when all around is rattling or popping or falling or cracking or splitting, then you'll be fine. Personally, I'll be happy if I can find the flashlight and my shoes.


Blogger Ova Girl said...

I hate to say this but I think I'd grab my laptop.
We're getting the news of the landslide over here and seeing people who obviously just woke up and ran. Yet another good reason to wear clothes to bed!

1:19 AM  
Blogger granny p said...

Oh gee. Reminds me of opening telephone directory in NZ and finding instructions on what to do in case of earthquake, volcanic eruption and tidal wave...Coming from safe little England that was shocking. And here I am on an island where any of these can happen, though noone seems much worried (apart from British vulcanologist who recently sold all his houses on the Canaries...should we take note?)

Glad your house didn't run downhill this time anyway. Hope red spot will never come

5:29 AM  
Blogger Lin said...

Note to Ova: Thanks for the reminder. How stupid of me not to have laptop at the top of the list! Oh...and digital camera. Maybe I could get a pic and a byeline in the LA Times.

Note to grannyp: Get location of British vulcanologist and see if he has reinvested anywhere or just gone back to Blighty.

9:29 AM  

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