This 5.6 earthquake was 1993’s most widely felt reminder that Oregon, like the other West Coast states, has earthquakes to worry about. The Oregonian covered it extensively, and the following items come from various articles in that newspaper.
Dave Thomas, senior primate keeper at the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, said the chimpanzees there were making alarm barks just before the quake: “An alarm bark is a unique vocalization, very different from their other yells and screeches. It’s like a very loud, shrill, ‘Wah.’ It means something’s wrong, and they’re warning the others. I knew something was wrong just from the fact they were awake. They sleep when it’s dark just like us.”
Later in the day, with the zoo’s adult male orangutan still upset, Thomas said: “We gave him some Maalox, and that seemed to help. The chimps explored their island very carefully this morning, and when they found nothing disturbed, they began to calm down.”
Ricky Bowers was in a 1989 Hyundai, driving to his construction job in Portland, and heading over the Oregon 18 bridge over the Yamhill River. The bridge had just dropped 6.5 inches from the quake. As Bowers explained, the car headed over the resulting gap: “I caught a lot of air and my car was swerving all over the road. Everything in the car went everywhere. It was a hell of a rush. I just hit it, and all I can remember are the sparks shooting out from all around the car and the smell of burning rubber.”
Bowers had a big truck behind him, and he said: “I had visions of that truck hitting the wall and the whole bridge falling into the river. I was still on the bridge and I didn’t want that to happen. It didn’t look like much was holding it.”
So, he flagged down the truck driver, who stopped 20 feet short of the dropoff. Bowers added: “I was never a big believer in seat belts. But I’m glad I was wearing one.”
Ruth Schnider, a Silverton woman, said: “It woke me with a big roar. My grandson and I popped out of bed at the same time. We watched the walls. The walls looked like big ribbons. All four of them were tilting into the rooms. It didn’t last long, but it was scary. I’ve been sick to my stomach ever since.”
Philip Fontaine, who lived in Molalla, said: “Literally, it felt like a freight train was going through the middle of my house. I ended up out on the front lawn in my underwear with my son in my arms. The children were all screaming. Everything was just shaking and not stopping. All I knew was I had to get my children out of my house.”
At Woodburn’s Safeway, manage Jim Chandler said “the night crew said it was like a tidal wave going through the store. They could hear it flow across the store and merchandise fall aisle after aisle.”
St. Mary’s Church in Mount Angel was badly damaged by the quake, and the next Sunday its service was held in the Oktoberfest beer hall building in town.
Rev. Emmanuel Clark, parish parochial vicar, said: “Each one of us is going through a death and resurrection experience. I doubt this parish family will ever be the same. I think we have learned what the message of Easter is; now we have to apply it to ourselves.”
And: “It’s one thing to be going to a warm, well-lit, churchy-looking building. It’s another thing to go into a place with the 20-year-old odor of stale beer. We lost a loved one, and we don’t know if she — if that’s the proper term for a church — will recover.”
Monica Bochsler, who was married in the church and had her four children baptized there, said: “Some said it was like a death in the family, and it is. This [the beer hall] is where everyone goes to get crazy; now we’ll all go here to get holy.”
Here’s an Oregonian graphic showing the epicenter of the Scotts Mills quake: