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The Paso Robles Earthquake, December 22, 2003

Barb has lived in California all her life. She loves the beauty and the climate, but not so much the fires and earthquakes.

My Warehouse after the  Earthquake

My Warehouse after the Earthquake

The Paso Robles Earthquake, December 22, 2003

Earthquakes come without warning.They strike when they are the farthest thing from your mind. I am going to tell you about the day the earth shook up my little piece of ground in Templeton, California. Paso Robles got more publicity, but where I live in Templeton was actually closer to the epicenter. So that you will better understand the pictures I took, you should know that I'm a bookseller. So the books you see falling everywhere are the some of the ones I had listed and ready to sell on line. The earthquake, as you might imagine, was a major disruption to my business.

Earthquakes Had Never Been a Big Deal to Me

December 22 started out pretty normally. I was tired because we had just finished celebrating our Slava on December 19. After Slava every year it's all I can do to get myself ready for Christmas, but Mom was still living then, and we were preparing to celebrate her birthday on December 23. Meanwhile, I had an appointment with a local customer at the warehouse, a two-block walk, for 11:30. I left my upstairs office about 11:10 to get ready to walk out there and prepare to meet my customer. As I was standing in the kitchen, about to leave, I felt the earth start to shake.

I have lived in California all my life. Earthquakes have always been a part of that life. Every now and then, the earth trembles, maybe a hanging lamp moves a bit, and you wait a minute for things to settle down. I had never considered earthquakes as something to really fear since I'd never personally been hurt by them. The bad ones always happened somewhere else.

This Earthquake Was Different

One minute everything was normal. The next minute the contents of the house were a disaster. It was lucky we were at home. The hat rack about eight feet from the front door fell right in front of it, making it impossible to open. Besides that, some of the books which had been stacked on the staircase came crashing down in the same area in front of the door. It's fortunate my husband was standing in front of the China cabinet, and he was able to keep it from crashing down. The sliding glass door off the kitchen is the only other exit, and it doesn't lock and unlock from the outside. So had we been gone with the front door locked, we would have had to break in.

All this happened in a flash. One minute we had plans. The next minute they changed drastically. My office computer is in my bedroom. I had two file cabinets (two-drawer) stacked on each other about two feet from the door, which opened in. One fell off and blocked the door so I couldn't open it. There is an indoor window above my bed -- the only other way in -- and it was jammed shut. Inside, I could hear the phone off the hook. My computer was still on. I could not get to my clothes, my medications, or anything else in the room. Everything on the top shelf of my desk fell onto my desk or the floor.

Of course, we had our cell phones, so I managed to call my customer and cancel the appointment. I was afraid to even look at the warehouse. It was a while before I was able to because things had also fallen to block that door. When someone stronger than I was finally there to help, part of what I saw is in the lead photo. The rest of it is in the photo gallery below.

We Were Lucky. It Could Have Been Worse

We really weren't prepared at all for this earthquake. Neither was Paso Robles. It is fortunate only two people died. Had it been a bit worse more buildings could have collapsed and the utilities been more affected. Our house was practically on the fault. I hope I'll be more prepared if the next one hits.

The kit below isn't just for earthquakes. It will help in any natural disaster you may face of a common kind. You know by now that the government probably won't come to your aid very soon. So you have to plan on meeting your own needs for at least the first three days.

Life After the Earthquake

Help from the Family

Fortunately, my younger brother and his teen-aged son were in town for Mom's birthday and the Christmas holidays. I had talked Mom into trying out a senior residence not far from her home in Paso Robles for a three-month period, but she came back home for my brother's visit so they could all spend more time together. That meant an apartment was empty temporarily for me to sleep in and have breakfast while I was getting my room back together.

The day after the earthquake my brother and my younger nephew came and helped me clear a path to my bedroom/office. This involved picking up the fallen books and then getting the bookcases upright again. This was especially difficult because I store books on hold on top of the shelves. Some of these fell behind, and these had to be retrieved before the bookcases would stand up again.

Meanwhile, out at the pump house, there was some damage to the plumbing that needed to be fixed immediately. The same kind friend who broke into my bedroom to let me in also fixed that damage so we'd continue to have water. We were able to eat most of our meals with the extended family at Mom's house, and I still had a few days after Christmas to work at home by day and take advantage of Mom's apartment at night. It's interesting that at Mom's she barely felt the quake and she had no damage at all. We were only seven miles apart. The senior residence was about a mile farther east, and there was no damage there, either.

My Attitude Toward Earthquakes Has Changed

It took a while for FEMA to come assess the damage, and it was determined we didn't have enough to make a claim. A lot of damaged books had to be written off inventory, and repairs at the warehouse continued for months, as did getting the house almost back to normal. I'm thankful this didn't happen during my busy season in the summer and fall.

Since experiencing this earthquake, I've never been able to take them casually again. At the first shake, I come down if I'm upstairs. I've been keeping water and some provisions up here in case I ever get trapped. I have never felt secure enough to have the door put back on.

My damage was only to property. I was fortunate. Two women in Paso Robles lost their lives when buildings fell on them. The links below will give you some basic reporting of the earthquake and also some other eyewitness accounts and the pictures others have taken of the downtown area in Paso Robles and some of the progress being made in restoring the downtown. One thing you will read about that took years to restore is the parking lot that was destroyed by the eruption of the sulfur hot springs. Every time one visited the library or city hall, the smell of sulfur reminded them of that historic day. Fortunately, they finally got it fixed.

Some of Our Local Damage

Earthquake Felt in Templeton California on June 20, 2009

A rude awakening!

You don't want to wake up the way I did at 5:32 AM -- hearing a loud crash that almost jolts you out of bed. I jumped out of bed and ran for the doorway. I huddled under it for a few seconds, waiting to see if more would follow. I saw that some of my books stacked in the hallway had fallen, but fortunately, none of the bookcases had, as they did last time. Kevin Will, the owner of our local radio station, KPRL, must have dressed quickly and rushed to the station. With a few minutes he was breaking into the regular broadcast to tell us it was a 4.5 quake centered about 8 miles S, SW of Lake Nacimiento, CA. That is about 15 miles west of Paso Robles, meaning it was also very near where I live in Templeton, CA, since as the crow flies, we are about two miles south of the Paso Robles downtown area.

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After things seem to calm down, I picked the books up and put them back and returned to bed, hoping to get some more sleep. Sleep, however, did not come quickly, since I was still concerned about aftershocks. I prayed, and finally fell back to sleep, re-awaking at 9:45, still pretty groggy -- so much so I forgot to turn into Trader Joe's when doing my Saturday shopping, and I was on the southbound onramp of 101 before I realized it. Had to get off at next stop and turn around to get to TJ's, and then on to Farmer's market.

It's normal to have aftershocks after the earthquake is over.

Buildings Restored Since Video Was Made

Restored Acorn Building, the fall of which had killed two women during the earthquake, in February, 2016.

Restored Acorn Building, the fall of which had killed two women during the earthquake, in February, 2016.

Restored Atascadero City Hall, October 31, 2013.

Restored Atascadero City Hall, October 31, 2013.

Restored Mission Church, San Miguel, California, interiior, May 15, 2015.

Restored Mission Church, San Miguel, California, interiior, May 15, 2015.

Update, June 21, 2009

Aftershocks of the June 20, 2009 Earthquake

There was an aftershock at 10:55 AM June 20, that registered 3.3 magnitude, but I didn't feel it. I did feel the 2.2 quake that occurred just as I was falling asleep at 12:08 this morning. It was only four miles west of Templeton, which is probably why I felt it more than the aftershock yesterday, which although stronger, was farther away. There's nothing quite like a pronounced earthquake to spoil that twilight zone when you are almost asleep. You wonder if it's really safe afterward, or whether you ought to stay on the alert for more. I hope we are pretty well through this round of shaking. I need my sleep.

My Bedtime Prayer in Earthquake Country

My photo and original text edited on

My photo and original text edited on

I've tried to offer a variety of links, from objective reporting to first hand accounts. Most of them have pictures I do not have of what happened in Paso Robles.

What is your perspective on the earthquake?

This poll is to provide information on how aware you were of the quake and whether it affected you in any way.

Keeping up with the Activity on the San Andreas Fault

I will continue to update this section when more news of fault activity that could affect California becomes available.

Whether you experienced this earthquake or another one, or maybe none at all, I'd like to know your thoughts. If you are an eyewitness,please consider sharing your own experience.

Please share your thoughts. - Were you an eyewitness?

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on March 30, 2015:

Audrey, we were lucky, but they say we'll have an even bigger one someday - maybe even during my lifetime.

Audrey Howitt from California on March 05, 2015:

Pretty scary! But yes, you were lucky!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on June 26, 2014:

@TanoCalvenoa: Those sound pretty scary. i remember the Northridge quake happening, and I know someone who was affected by it. Thanks for adding this comment.

TanoCalvenoa on June 26, 2014:

As a Californian (I live in Corona in Southern California), I've experienced plenty of earthquakes. Biggest was the 7.3 Landers Quake in 1992, I was driving on the highway right near the epicenter when it happened and the road was moving in waves in front of me. I also remember Northridge 1.5 years later, which shook the windows hard and moved my bed 6" from the wall.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on December 27, 2013:

@TurtleDog70: Be thankful. Until this one, I'd never been disturbed by an earthquake. The earlier ones I experienced were more like a rainstorm as compared to a flood.

TurtleDog70 on December 23, 2013:

I'd been in a very mild one in Pennsylvania once. Very worrisome. I can't image one like the Earthquake your wrote about. Nice post

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 26, 2011:

I can't even imagine how it must be to live through an earthquake. I am so thankful that you are ok. We have never experienced one and hope we don't.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on March 18, 2011:

@MargoPArrowsmith: It is experiencing my earthquake that made me imagine how devastated the Japanese must feel. In comparison, I was simply inconvenienced. I still have my house, I had somewhere else to sleep until my bedroom was habitable again, and my town only lost two lives and a few buildings. Because so few were in mourning, there were plenty who could help and comfort them. In Japan, thousands have been killed or injured, thousands have lost everything, and those who haven't' still have to protect themselves against the radioactive air. Since almost everyone is affected, the community can't gather around just a few unlucky ones in the same way they could hear.

MargoPArrowsmith on March 18, 2011:

I am reading this after Japan. You had a mess, but I am glad you are ok.Nuclear reactors make it a whole lot more complicated

jolou on October 14, 2010:

I live in an earthquake prone area as well, and have felt a few, but all of them have been minor ones. It's strange and hard to describe for people, except once you have experienced one you know exactly what it is the next time.

ohcaroline on October 09, 2010:

Excellent account of the earthquake. My 2 aunts went through a really big one back in the 80's. Blessed by an Angel. will be featured on my angel lens: angel on assignment.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on September 04, 2010:

@RhondaAlbom: Rhonda, I'm so glad you are all OK. Thanks for taking some of your limited bandwidth to comment. I hope this latest quake didn't cancel your vacation. As to knowing what's going on when you're in bed, you ocatch on fast, and then you wonder whether to get up and get under a door or stay put and pull the covers and pillow over. There is a window over my bed and there is absolutely no way a bed will fit any other way in the room.

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on September 04, 2010:

Just in another one last night. It's odd how even being awaken from a deep sleep, you know exactly what is going on. I think my cousin was in the Paso Robles quake and that this was the one that blew her stove off her wall. Great lens.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on January 21, 2010:

Very nice lens and very touching, 5*****. I haven't been through an earthquake, but I have seen the damage caused by several major ones. It's a horrible thing to go through, especially if all around you collapses.

teamlane on April 23, 2009:

Nice local history Barb!Blessed by a SquidAngel today! Colleen :o)

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on April 19, 2009:

I've never experienced an earthquake, but I frequently head out to Palm Springs, CA where they predict the next "big one" to possibly have its epicenter. What can you do but be prepared and live life? This sounds like a horrible experience to have to go through. I never realized the sulphur springs caused such damage in Paso Robles. I was there two years ago and it seems like they've rebuilt everything -- then again I don't know what it looked like before. Thanks for sharing.

ElizabethJeanAl on April 10, 2009:

We are sitting on a fault line, but since moving to SC, I've only felt a few rumbles. They say we're due and that's scary.Thanks for sharingLizzy

FunGifts4All on April 09, 2009:

Very nice lens. 5 stars.

Sarunas on April 09, 2009:

Great lens.Well Done. 5* from meAnd Keep it up : D

Carol Goss on April 09, 2009:

I live in oregon and I keep hearing we are going to have the "Big one" soon. Kinda scary but I life life each day at a time. I have only been in one quake and it was a tiny one. I thought someone was dancing on the floor and makig it shake lol

Mountainside-Crochet on April 08, 2009:

Wow - interesting quake story. If I heard about it at the time, I've forgotten. I'm sure I would have remembered if it had been called the Paso Robles Earthquake because I lived on the Central Coast, in Los Osos, outside San Luis Obispo, from 1975 to 1982 and know Paso Robles and the Avila Beach area well. In Los Osos we felt a slight tremor from a minor earthquake over near the Nevada State Line once (don't remember what year or where exactly the epicenter was), but I'll never forget the sensation! I was in the kitchen at the time and my husband was having a meeting with a group of about a dozen college fraternity boys in the living room. When the house began to shake and the coffee cups on the rack on the wall began to clink together and the hanging lamp over the dining room table began to swing, I thought these college boys were 'rough-housing' in the living room and causing all this commotion! Ha - fooled me! The boys laughed at my reaction to my first earthquake! 5*.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on April 08, 2009:

[in reply to Joy Bergquist] Joy, I was hoping you would post that experience, since I knew you had an exciting story to tell. I'm glad you've just given it a wider audience.

anonymous on April 08, 2009:

It was awesome from a heavily wooded mtn top. The trees swayed back and forth violently, thunderous boulders and rocks came crashing down the hill sides. I was on a slope halfway down the mtn. where it dropped off on either side. A safe place because the boulders went down to the lowest spots to each side of me. I was unable to continue standing because the ground was moving so much. I sat down to the ground holding onto my dog. After the earthquake I hiked for 4 hours checking out the huge cracks in the ground, the areas where the ground had elevation changes or over 12 inches. Hugh gaps between soil and rock formations where they have been shifted during the quake. It was good that I didn't try to drive home immediately as Hwy 46 had 8 road crews working in various sections trying to repair road damage and I would not have been able to drive home anyway. I spent an hour removing rocks/boulder from the road to get to the Hwy. Feeling the powerful quake took my mind to God.

anonymous on April 08, 2009:

Fortunately, the only earthquakes I have experienced were very minor (rattling dishes). Natural disasters are so hard to deal with! My city is recovering from last summer's major flood - your photos look similar to ours, just without the water lines.

tandemonimom lm on April 07, 2009:

I have never been in a quake - thank goodness!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Paso Robles, CA on April 07, 2009:

Thanks for the kind words. My heart also goes out to those in Italy; they have it so much worse than we had it here. I will always feel more compassion for those who are experiencing them than I did before I had my own earthquake experience.

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on April 07, 2009:

I experienced several earthquakes in Costa Rica. The building there have been built to withstand the strong tremblings of the earth and only very old buildings were damaged. Each time is a bit scarier than the last. My hear goes out to all those people in Italy that are living through the nightmare of this recent earthquake.Your lens gave me a very vivid memory of the earthquakes that I have experienced. What an incredible first lens. Welcome to Squidoo!

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