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Recent Earthquakes Unearth Memories

Fear: The series of small jolts rattles nerves of many who recall the '94 Northridge temblor.

January 31, 2002|CLAIRE LUNA and GARIOT LOUIMA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

It's been eight years since the Northridge quake and twice that long since Chris Hess was taught the earthquake drill so familiar to California schoolchildren.

But for each of the dozens of small quakes that have rolled through the region since Monday--all aftershocks of the 1994 temblor--Hess remembered the childhood drill and ran for the nearest doorway.

This week's quakes, the largest a 4.2 shaker Monday night, have prompted the 25-year-old Cal State Northridge student and many other Southern Californians to brush up on quake preparedness skills and try to calm their nerves.

"Northridge started small, then it escalated and the shaking didn't seem to stop," Hess said. Monday night's quake "started off small, and thank God it stayed little."

Those who have religiously kept their water bottles filled and valuables glued to the shelves since January 1994 said the aftershocks of the 6.7 magnitude quake justify their preparations for the Big One.

"Northridge taught us to be prepared rather than just run around being scared," said Robin Galvez, 54, who lives in Simi Valley near the epicenter of the recent quakes.

Galvez said she keeps a 55-gallon tank of water and a week's supply of canned food in the kitchen.

Monday night's temblor, however, sent her cat, which was wedged between a couch and an end table for days after the 1994 quake, under her bed for 24 hours.

Tara Condon, a Simi Valley manicurist who is eight months' pregnant, said she didn't realize there had been a quake Monday night until her husband ran to tell her.

"I just thought it was me walking because I'm so fat," said Condon, 37, as she filed nails at the Get Nailed salon. "But my husband comes running in, screaming and yelling about the Big One coming. I just laughed at him."

The couple have started putting their shoes by the bed before going to sleep, and her husband has insisted she wear pajama bottoms, Condon said.

"He's just Mr. Paranoid," she said. "I'm sure I won't forget to put on pants, even if there's a big earthquake."

Curtis Swartley, 22, said customers at Brunswick Valley Bowl in Simi Valley haven't worried.

"If the pins fall, they reset them," Swartley said. "No one freaks out about earthquakes--this is California."

Some native Southern Californians, however, developed earthquake phobias after the 1994 shaker, including Yoseya Taylor, 18, who said she ran under a closet doorway when the ground shook Monday night.

"I was freaked the heck out," said Taylor, who lives in a Cal State Northridge dorm. "I've been in earthquakes in L.A. Those are nothing. Earthquakes in Northridge are scarier."

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