EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches


Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds. It’s pitch black because there is no electricity in town and you’re being pummeled by your belongings as they fly off the walls and shelves. In the chaos you can hear the shouts and screams of your neighbors and every dog in town seems to be barking and howling in confusion. Your natural instinct is to run outside before the walls come crashing down but you can barely move because your entire house is littered with debris, including lots of broken glass, ceramics and damaged electronics that could easily cause serious injuries. When you do finally make it outside the sound of wailing sirens begins to fill the air. You have no internet connection and phones are barely functioning so information is nearly impossible to come by. This information blackout will go on for another five hours as you attempt to check on your elderly neighbors, look for missing pets and try to find that emergency kit with a much needed flashlight that is buried somewhere underneath the wreckage that you once called home sweet home. Did the state of California just crack in half and break away from North America? Did Godzilla attack San Francisco? Did the zombie apocalypse start? Has a long dormant volcano erupted? These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that will race through your head seconds after the quake. Thankfully you’ll be wrong on all counts but you did just experience the most powerful earthquake to strike Northern California in 25 years.

I was born in California and have spent most of my life here in the Golden State. I’ve lived through many earthquakes, including the Loma Prieta quake that rocked the Bay Area in 1989 and almost took down the Bay Bridge but I’ve never experienced the kind of shaking that I felt on August 24th. I live near the epicenter of the Napa quake and it was the most formidable natural disaster that I’ve faced outside of a raging fire that threatened to burn down an apartment building I lived in back in 2005. I fought that fire, which sent multiple neighbors and two brave firefighters to the hospital, with everything I had. Water hose in hand, covered in soot and ash, I looked like Steve McQueen at the end of THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) when the fire was finally squelched. But an earthquake is a different kind of monster. You can’t fight it. You just have to ride it out and hope for the best, which is why they tend to reduce me to tears. I might transform into Steve McQueen in the face of a serious fire but in the face of a powerful earthquake I tend to resemble mute Judith O’Dea in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).


I’m still reeling – shaken AND stirred – but I wanted to share my quake experience here because a few short weeks ago I wrote about Carole Lombard’s impact on my small city and shared photos of the historic Alexandria building in Napa, which housed the cast of THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED in 1939. That beautiful 105-year-old building is just one of the many historic structures in Napa that suffered major damage during the earthquake and it’s going to take months, possibly years, for things to get back to normal around here. At the moment many residents are still without water and the water we do have is not drinkable. Hundreds of pets have gone missing and some schools, senior centers, churches, post offices and businesses remain closed while our only newspaper struggles to bring its citizens important news after their offices were deemed uninhabitable. While it’s easy to imagine Napa as a sort of FALCON CREST (1981-1990) fantasy land populated by rich vintners, award-winning chefs and movie stars, the county is mostly made-up of small business owners, farmers, retirees and many working class men and women much like my own family. They are the ones who pick the grapes, bottle the wine and package it for your consumption. They clean rooms at the luxury hotels and wash dishes as well as serve and cook the food that’s offered at our prized restaurants. I mention all this because I love Napa and the varied people who populate it and the earthquake put all of that into sharp focus for me. I also discovered that no matter how many precautions I had taken I wasn’t prepared for a natural disaster so before signing off I thought I’d share some of my hard-learned survival tips that may help you if you ever happen to find yourself in a similar situation.


Get to Know Your Neighbors: After the quake hit one of the first things we did was check on our elderly neighbors who might need a hand. Thankfully a lot of residents in my neighborhood have known each other for decades so that made things easy but if you’re new in town or have recently moved, it’s important that you get to know who your neighbors are. During a disaster they might end up saving your life or help you dig out from the destruction.


One Disaster Kit Isn’t Enough: In California we’re constantly told to keep a disaster kit on hand in case of emergencies but many of us never do it and if we do, we only have one. If you can manage it try and put together 2 or 3. Keep them in different locations such as in your house or apartment, as well as in your car or garage so if one location is damaged during a disaster you’ll have a back-up plan. If you don’t have a car you might consider leaving an extra kit with a neighbor, nearby family member or friend.


Make Sure Your Shoes Are Easily Accessible: Always sleep with a sturdy pair of shoes next to your bed and if you’re prone to sleeping nude, it might be practical to keep some warm clothing nearby in case you have to make a mad dash for the door in the middle of the night. Shoes are especially critical when you’re trying to maneuver through broken and possibly dangerous debris in your home in the dark.


Keep Your Eyeglasses in a Sturdy Case: If you’re nearly blind like me remember to keep a pair of glasses next to the bed in a sturdy case that can withstand a substantial impact. It’s also smart to keep an extra pair on hand in case something happens to your first pair. I tend to just take my glasses off at night and leave them on top of a book, which can be problematic if your house is suddenly turned upside down. A good case will keep your glasses protected and should make them easier to find.

e1PSYCHO (1960)

Have Cash On Hand: In this digital age we tend to use credit cards for everything but they’re useless if local businesses have no electricity. In a disaster you might need emergency supplies such as water or batteries so always make sure you have a reasonable amount of hard cash on hand in case local merchants aren’t able or willing to accept credit cards.


Fill That Tank: If you live in a rural area like Napa without much public transportation it’s highly likely that you own a motor vehicle. Make sure the tank is always full in case you need to get out of town in a hurry and travel long distances.

e0ALIEN (1979)

Don’t Forget About Your Pets: During a natural disaster it’s only natural for human beings to worry about themselves and their immediate family but don’t forget to make emergency arrangements for your pets. If you have small animals it’s wise to keep a pet carrier close by and supply it with food and other needs your pet might have such as medications, etc. If you have larger animals you can still make preparations but consider getting outside help from a local kennel or boarding facility.

Last but not least …


Make sure you have your own Chuck Heston or Sigourney Weaver nearby to pull you to safety or sort out your head when the going gets really tough! And if you don’t, seek one out. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or a shoulder to cry on if you need it.

Further Reading:
- Napa Valley Register
- Napa County Historical Society Earthquake Updates
- Napa Valley Vintners Earthquake Relief Fund

14 Responses EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches
Posted By Jenni : August 28, 2014 2:04 pm

I was visiting relatives in OH when this latest quake hit, my great-aunt who lives in Hillsborough, CA happened to also be in town for her 60th high school reunion! My first thoughts when I heard about the quake were my CA relatives, but as I then heard that it was the Napa area that got hit, I did wonder about you, Kimberly, as you had written that enjoyable post about the film made in Napa years ago that starred Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton.

Glad that you are ok and praying for you and all of the citizens in your area as they begin the rebuilding processes.

Posted By LD : August 28, 2014 4:02 pm

So sorry to hear about your experience. My son and his wife were vacationing in CA, touring north and south of San Francisco and were in San Jose at the time of the quake. Fortunately, he contacted me before I saw the news. Pictures falling off walls was the extent of their damage.

Having lived along the northern Gulf coast I am familiar with natural disasters and having emergency kits. We lived on a barrier island and were at ground zero for hurricane “Ivan”. Infrastructure destroyed. What you get with a hurricane that you do not get with an earthquake is a warning. You can get out of a hurricane’s way. Not with an earthquake. Glad you are okay.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 28, 2014 5:24 pm

Thanks so much for your kind thoughts! Although the city has suffered some serious damage, we were extremely lucky that the quake struck at 3:20AM when most of the town was sleeping. If it had happened during the day when businesses were open and the streets were packed with tourists, we would have had a much larger human toll. More deaths would have been inevitable and there would have been many more severe injuries.

Posted By AL : August 28, 2014 9:15 pm

Kimberly–I’m oh-so-sad to hear about the ALEXANDRIA. Please reassure us that it can be restored; and I, for one, would truly appreciate updates on this terrible occurrence (or info on how to find out)…AL

Posted By Doug : August 28, 2014 9:28 pm

Glad that you are okay, Kimberly, and thanks for sharing the good advice about being prepared. My earthquake experience isn’t worth mentioning, but I can relate to the being tossed around, sometimes in the dark-as a sailor I was in quite a few really bad storms.
At the alarm, “PREPARE FOR HEAVY ROLLS” we had to only seconds grab and hang on to any nearby support.
People (and places) are resilient, and I’m sure that Napa will be fine, and this earthquake will be another page in its history.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 29, 2014 1:52 am

AL – Thanks so much for your compassionate reply, Al! I truly appreciate it. To be honest, the media coverage of the Napa quake has often been superficial, careless and not all that sensitive to the working class locals. Our local newspaper (The Napa Valley Register) remains the best source of information about the quake and our local historical society is another good source of information. I’ve just added links to both of those information resources to the end of my post.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : August 29, 2014 1:58 am

Doug – Thanks! Hopefully my personal experience might help someone else. Those boat trips sound unnerving. Earthquakes can often feel like you’re on a boat in a rough sea and it’s common to feel nauseous afterward. After 5 days of ongoing aftershocks I’m starting to feel really nauseous myself.

Posted By Marty : August 29, 2014 1:29 pm

I saw Earthquake first run in a Sensaround-equipped theater.
So the movie starts and of course, it drags because they have to introduce all the characters and frame the many subplots that become “seasoning” for the main story — a super earthquake.
I’m dozing literally for what seemed like an hour when suddenly the big sub-woofers and sensaround track open up and I jumped about ten feet off my theater seat — it was the earthquake they promised in the trailers and ads.

Universal was really into taking William Castle exploitation/showmanship ideas and applying heaps of real technology to make them bigger and more real. They even brought back a revival of 3-D for Jaws 3-D and a space picture as well.

Posted By AL : August 29, 2014 10:46 pm

KIMBERLY–I tried calling CityEditor Kevin Courtney, but the call wouldn’t go through; So, I’ve just sent him an eMail requesting an update on the status of our beloved ALEXANDRIA. I’ve got my fingers crossed…AL

Posted By MedusaMorlock : August 29, 2014 11:05 pm

These are excellent tips coming out of real experience — I grew up and lived in L.A. for a great part of my adult life and tried to be prepared but you never think you are going to REALLY need it. Obviously that’s not true.

Dark & broken things = scary mess

Loved your illustrations, especially poor Henry Bemis — I can really relate to that situation!

Here’s to Napa pulling together in the face of this natural disaster. I hope people realize that this is just a fraction of what The Big One would be like. May it not happen in our lifetimes!

Take care and we are all thankful that it wasn’t worse for you.

Posted By Susan Doll : August 30, 2014 3:20 am

Kimberly: I am sorry that this happened and I hope it doesn’t take too long to recover. I live in hurricane-land, so I can relate. I am going to put together a hurricane kit for sure.

Posted By Dale : August 30, 2014 3:24 am


Thanks for this post. As much as my daughter sometimes does not understand my classic movie habit, I hope she will take to heart the tips that you posted here. She has only lived in CA for a few years and the quakes she has experienced have been minor. So…she tends to ignore her old dads advice from the east coast. I think she’ll pay attention to yours.

Glad you are okay and hope the community pulls through this okay.

Posted By heidi : September 1, 2014 4:09 pm

Kimberly-so glad you are ok. I have a friend that lives near there, but she is just far enough away that they didn’t have any damage. We live in North Florida, 20 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. We get the tornadoes and Tropical Storms and Hurricanes that ravage this part of the country, but as mentioned above, at least with the T.S. and hurricanes you get warnings and can get the heck out of Dodge if you need to. I hope that the town recovers sooner than anticipated. Take care!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 3, 2014 4:59 am

Thanks again for all the kind comments, everyone! I truly appreciate it. It’s going to take time to get things back to normal around here but we’re on the road to recovery.

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