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Residents Know How to Roll With Punches

April 27, 1992|VIRGINIA ELLIS and JOHN HURST | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

FERNDALE, Calif. — When the third major quake in 24 hours hit this pastoral town Sunday, Danielle Gyurik heard a loud, sickening snap--and prepared herself for the worst.

She ran outside in the pre-dawn darkness, and, sure enough, there it was: Her century-old bed and breakfast, the Ferndale Inn, had lurched off its foundation and was perilously perched over the waters of Francis Creek.

But like other inhabitants of this rugged, quake-prone region, Gyurik, 29, did not mope.

"It's time for a career change anyway," she said, sitting on a pile of quilts she had brought out to her front lawn to serve as makeshift beds.

"And besides, I'll never run out of kindling."

In the past two days, the North Coast of California has been rocked by jolt upon bone-jarring jolt. But long practice has taught its populace to roll with the punches: This region is one of the most seismically active in the world.

"We were born shaking," shrugged Ronda James, a beautician in the town of Scotia.

"It's just like people in the South--they have to deal with tornadoes. It's part of life."

James and her husband, Paul, who works at Pacific Lumber Co., which owns the town of Scotia, found something positive about the quakes that drove them from their beds and set the town's sole shopping center on fire early Sunday.

"Everybody was asking how everybody is," Paul James said. "It just draws people together."

Indeed, in downtown Ferndale, Patty Purvis-Thielman closed her cafe but set up a barbecue on the sidewalk to dispense free hot dogs to town folk and emergency workers.

"It's not important to make a profit right now, but to share what we've got," she said.

In Petrolia, 29 miles to the south on the coast, neighbors went door to door to offer each other support. With the town's only grocery store burned to the ground, they shared food and other emergency supplies.

The few who did not suffer damage in the quake helped others board up broken fireplaces and windows.

"There is a real sense of camaraderie and community here," said Chris Woods, a state Office of Emergency Services deputy coordinator.

"Oh, there are some political struggles and differences, but it's difficult to hold a grudge in a town this size when you've got to see everybody at the post office every day."

If anything, the incessant temblors have shaped residents' way of life as much as quakes have shaped the rugged coastline of Humboldt County.

"You have to be a little bit hardy to live here--you've got to be able to take it," said Dave Maack, who moved from his quake-damaged home to his pickup truck Saturday night.

"We used to have a fireplace over there," said Lois Gillespie, 79, pointing to a patch in the wall of her living room. "But earthquakes worked on it so long, we finally gave it up."

Gillespie, who has spent her entire life in Petrolia, admitted sheepishly to one vice--collecting glass and china.

"It's foolish," she said, "in this part of the country.

"You should only collect brass and copper."

Shawn Hubler in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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