Buildings "rolling like jelly" in Seattle quake : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thursday, March 1 7:44 AM SGT

Buildings "rolling like jelly" in Seattle's 6.8 magnitude quake

SEATTLE, Washington, Feb 28 (AFP) -

Wednesday's powerful earthquake sounded like heavy construction to Washington Governor Gary Locke, who was in a meeting in the state capital of Olympia when the 6.8-magnitude temblor hit.

"I thought, no wait, that is more than construction... I had everybody get under the desks and tables," the governor said from the State Emergency Operations Center in Camp Murray near Olympia, noting thankfully that very few people were injured and there were no reports of deaths.

"The floor seemed to slide back and forth... it was pretty harrowing," he said.

Lawyer Gail Draper, who was in the Columbia Tower, one of Seattle's tallest buildings said, "the building felt like rolling jelly." "We got the hell out of there," she said.

The earthquake, Washington state's strongest since 1949 when a 7.1 temblor hit, struck at 10:54 am (1854 GMT) and was widely felt in the region, even as far north as British Columbia, a neighboring Canadian province.

The streets of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest's largest city, were littered with chunks of broken buildings and shards of glass, reminiscent of the damage caused by rioting protesters in December 1999 during the World Trade Organization meeting.

"The inside of our building looks like a bomb hit; there's rubble, computer gear all over the floor," said Patrick Moynihan, a software company executive. "Fortunately all 25 of our employees escaped without injury... we told them not to come to work tomorrow."

Bill Gates, whose Microsoft software company is embroiled in a different kind of shake-up in the other Washington, was in the middle of a product demonstration to employees on the company's Redmond campus when the quake hit. He walked off the stage as chunks of ceiling crashed to the floor.

Media flashed pictures of flooded homes and a dammed river, and images captured by various local media of their own offices showed normally immobile spaces see-sawing as if on ships caught in storms on the high seas.

The suburban county of Snohomish was offering free bus service to stranded commuters with massive delays reported in the Puget Sound area as officials tried to reroute traffic because of structural damage to bridges in the area.

King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle also suffered severe structural damage, shutting down 911 emergency telephone service located in the building. Services are still in place through alternative systems but phone traffic is heavy and slowed down considerably.

"It was huge, so huge, and I am from California, too; it's the biggest I've ever felt," said Diana Forsythe, reached by telephone at her job at a printing office. "We are shocked. All the hanging lights fell, the roof (of her two-story office) is damaged... computers too."

Locke, who immediately declared a statewide state of emergency, expected the damage to "be in the billions of dollars."

President George W. Bush, returning from a Midwestern trip to pitch his tax cut plan plan, said Federal Emergency Management director Joseph Allbaugh would travel to Washington, accompanied by members of the state's congressional delegation, to "work with state and local officials to provide help to the state of Washington."

"Our prayers go out to those injured, their families, and the thousands of lives disrupted by this earthquake," Bush said. "My administration is ready to help any way we can."

-- Swissrose (, March 01, 2001

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