Here, from the Oregonian, are many stories from people about how they experienced the two major Klamath Falls earthquakes (either both were 6.0s or one of them was a 5.9, the other a 6.0) on the evening of this day.
Thomas J. Wiley, Oregon’s regional geologist for southwest Oregon, said he was watching Monday Night Football in a Roseburg hotel room: “I remember the Denver Broncos were playing, because John Elway got tackled, then I felt the hotel shake. I thought, ‘That was a pretty good tackle!’”
Wiley added that “I thought it was just a rickety hotel” until his wife called to tell him what it really was. And, that “the major thing that’s been learned from the Klamath Falls quakes” is the fact of an earthquake threat in Oregon. Wiley: “For years, there’s been a mindset that Oregon doesn’t have earthquakes. But these quakes changed that in the perspective of the populous and their legislators and even scientists. It’s a tough way to learn a lesson, and it’s lucky they were as small as they were and not right under very populated areas.”
Jim Caylor, a former Silicon Valley engineer, said, “I was in the earthquake in San Francisco (in October 1989). And this was every bit as heavy as that. . . . It was rock ‘n’ roll time. The first (quake) got your acquaintance. About five or 10 minutes later, it looked like the Fourth of July — all these transformers going off. You could feel it coming right at you.”
A couple was traveling in their pickup along state Highway 97, north of Klamath Falls, when an over 10-ton boulder hit the driver’s side of the cab, instantly killing 59-year-old Kenneth L. Campbell. His wife, Phyllis, was nearly unhurt. She said: “He took the full brunt of it on his side of the car. I don’t understand. There’s a scratch on my thumb. Just God knows why. I heard a loud crack. He suddenly yelled, ‘No!’ It was right on top of us. There was no way to get away from it.”
Phyllis Campbell added that immediately when the quake happened, “There was a tremendous flash in the sky, a short one first and then a much larger one that lit up the whole sky”-from transformers exploding. She added: “We don’t understand God’s reasoning. We just have to trust what he puts in our way.”
Police officer John Dees: “It felt like you were on a raft going over a rapid. You could see transformers exploding over by the railroad tracks and up on the hill.”
19-year-old Heather Olson: “I was at work at Kentucky Fried Chicken on South Sixth and there was a blue streak and all the lights went out. This guy from England was buying some chicken, and it scared him so bad I just gave him the food free.”
Nick Reynolds recalled: “You couldn’t walk. It was like there was a big bubble, or a flood of water rushing under the house. First it would lift one side, then the other.”
Charles A. Garrett, the veterinarian at Acacia Animal Hospital, said: “My own cat at home was acting really weird just before it happened. She started pacing, enough to drive me crazy, and then it hit. I said, ‘So that’s what it was.’ ”
Terry Bennett, part-owner of Yesterday’s Plaza, a brick antiques building at the corner of Ninth and Pine in Klamath Falls: “I know this doesn’t look great but I really feel fortunate. The actual experience of an earthquake is not the scary part. It’s afterward when you think of what could have happened that you get scared.”
Susie Aspell, a Klamath Falls mother: “We have snow days occasionally, but we’ve never had an earthquake day. It sounded like the proverbial train going through the living room. The windows rattled. The beams rattled and creaked. The shower door slammed — bam, bam, bam. It only lasted 5 or 6 seconds. It just felt longer.”
Pete Bernett, 17, said: “The whole house started flopping. I could hear the furnace bouncing underneath the house. We were surprised because everyone said there weren’t supposed to be earthquakes here.”
At the Classico Italian Ristorante, Janet Bumala said: “Pots were flying off the stove. The ceiling was falling down. Everything got quiet and then we heard a loud noise that sounded like a car wreck.”
Nancy Shindler, 45, was at home: “The first one felt like a big gust of wind. The second one felt like living right next to a roller coaster. We don’t really know what to do [in an earthquake]. We haven’t talked about it because it hadn’t been an option before.”
A decade later, the Klamath Falls Herald and News revisited these quakes. It reported:
Bob Simonson remembers standing in the middle of the street outside his Gatewood home watching the hills roll.
“It was like a shock wave,” he said. “You could see it.”
The Klamath earthquakes nearly a decade ago have faded into history, but the impact of that night and the following days have left permanent aftershocks in the memories of Klamath Basin residents.
Simonson, now a deputy superintendent for the Klamath Falls City Schools, was principal at Mazama High School Sept. 20, 1993, the day of the quakes. After the first quake around 7 p.m., he loaded up his family in their van and drove to the high school, where he parked the van in the middle of the football field. Red Cross workers met him there, and they began setting up an emergency shelter in the school’s cafeteria.
Then the second quake hit.
“I was carrying a table when I saw the facade (of the outdoor breezeway) move,” Simonson recalled. “I dropped the table and ran. The building just rocked and rolled.”
The 1993 earthquakes for Barbara Anne Ezell destroyed bits of history that she loved. But now the quakes themselves are part of the Basin’s history, and she has donated two “I survived the Klamath quakes” T-shirts she bought in the week following the Sept. 20 quakes to the Klamath County Museum.
Ezell, who after the quakes fought to preserve the old courthouse downtown, was watching television at her home near Sixth and Hope streets the night the first one hit.
“The ground really shook. It rocked and rolled,” she said. “I just stood there and waited for it to stop.”