The 1978 Santa Barbara Earthquake: Pollock or Picasso?

It was like being inside a paint shaker. With no warning, the house started shaking violently from side to side. I was lying on the living room floor reading the Sunday paper when the earthquake hit. My very first thought was that a car had run into my house or that an airplane had crashed. But then it kept going and I knew what it was.

My stereo equipment on a shelf tumbled to the floor as I tried to get on my feet to get outside. I just wanted to get out of there. But when I tried to get off the floor, I couldn't do it. After a few seconds, the shaking eased up a bit and I was able to get up and get my wife and myself out to the front yard.

I think the quake lasted 10 or 15 seconds. It felt like a very strong quake, but outside things seemed pretty much in order.

-California Highway Patrolman Gene Hunt, quoted in the Santa Barbara News-Press of August 14, 1978.

Despite the severity of the shaking, most houses (excluding mobile homes) survived with only minor damages such as cracked plaster and broken windows. Many people also reported finding their refrigerator doors open and a gooey mess on the floor.

As described above, people who are indoors in an earthquake often have the urge to run outside. In general, however, this is not recommended since you can be hurt or killed by falling objects if you run out of a building during an earthquake.

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