What the #@&%$ was that?!??
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At 10:54am Feb 28 2001, a magnitude 7.0 (later downgraded to 6.8) earthquake shook downtown Seattle.
Although the structural integrity of my building does not appear to have been compromised, the interior of my home sustained
virtual total damage.
IMMEDIATE EFFECTS: The quake started as a single "thump", which I mistook for the roofers dropping a piece of machinery on the roof.
Several seconds later, a north-to-south swaying motion became evident, which increased in intensity over the next 15-20 seconds.
By this time, it was no longer possible for anybody in the building to stand unaided. The dominant sounds were those of breaking glass and large
bangs & thumps from furniture, large appliances, and home electronics falling to the floor; and of doors banging back and forth. A loud slow rattling noise was also evident, along with various
creaks, cracks, and groans from the building's structure itself. The sound of the elevator car slamming into the walls of the elevator shaft was also evident.
At around 30 seconds, the breaking glass and falling object noises became spaced farther apart as fewer and
fewer objects remained upright.
The water was thrown out of toilets and fishtanks (those which didn't come down), and hanging fixtures banged against walls or broke off the ceiling.
Finally, at approximately 40 seconds, the violent swaying subsided, and was pretty much gone around ten seconds after that.
A buzzing noise became evident after everything stopped moving. Three sources were located: a computer monitor soaked in water from
the fishtank, an outlet strip shorting out from water entry, and the fishtank pump running dry after too much water was thrown out of the tank.
No other damage to live electrical systems was found.
Down the 3rd floor hall, I heard a toliet flush, and then the sound of splashing water and that of something being knocked over and breaking.
Presumably, the toilet flooded and its owner was pawing through debris to find their plunger or some towels.
Structural damage to the building was limited to a fractured facade on the north wall (broken off at the roofline,
but remained attached by its embedded rebar), numerous cracks on interior joints, several fractured & buckled cinderblock flooring plates
on the surface of our outdoor rooftop courtyard, and several ceiling tiles in the lobby ruined by water running down
from another busted can on the 4th floor.
Most of this site has been taken down to utilise server space; this is just
a smattering of pictures that were left over from approximately 75 photos originally taken.
In the end, it took 50 days to clean up after it, primarily because I had almost no help with heavy articles (remember I'm in a wheelchair)
and could not afford to hire a cleanup crew to do it for me. But it finally did get done.
This page has a number of large (640x480) pictures on it.
Last updated July 22, 2001
The first picture - taken while the place was still coming down
around my ears and while trying to stagger towards the front door with a cane.
Part of what once was the living room. :-O
This floor was once clear; most everything on the floor came from the left side of the room.
At this point, I had just begun to pick a few items up so I could move around the room a bit.
My pet rats were also on the left wall, and were crushed during the earthquake. :(
Another picture of the remains of the living room.
Hundreds of insulators are on the floor, behind furniture, and on furniture; many broken.
This picture was taken late on the day of the quake, after I cleaned off the couch so I could sit in it.
This window display used to have 88 insulators in it.
Almost all of them were thrown clear and a number of them busted up on the couch & on the floor in front of the couch, like you see in the next picture.
Insulators busted all over the couch.
To this day (mid-July) I'm still cutting myself on glass buried deep inside the cussions.
Box slowly filling with busted insulators, some of them irreplaceable.
This is what the window display looked like about a week before the big Q.
These insulators were collected over a nearly 30 year time period.
It was days before I could get into the bedroom and sleep in my own bed without stepping on glass.
The headboard was ripped from the wall, glass and medicine was everywhere, and shelves were broken off.
For about the first ten days, I had to sleep on my glass-filled couch. It was better than the alternative. :(
That battery charger plugged into the wall was the only thing that kept the headboard from falling all the way over.
A small part of the kitchen floor.
I couldn't get any farther inside to take more pictures.
My only usable chair - snapped right off its post after some equipment fell on it.
I have since purchased a better work chair from the local Office Depot
which is actually more comfortable.
So I'm not sitting on a small, stiff wooden kitchen chair
while working on the computer or performing electronics testing like I was for a month or two following
the big Q.
This picture shows the front portion of the room after the cleanup was already well underway.
Bags of food from the foodbank are splattered all over the floor, and my wheelchair is fairly effectively blocked in.
This picture was taken after about half of the cleanup in this area was already done.
It would be several more hours before that wheelchair could be used again.
Except for the bags of food, the chair, and a planter; everything you see was in boxes up against the wall.
Nite-shot of 'The Dumpster'.
In the first couple of days, it has gained 25 big bags of $&@#*, 5 computer monitors,
3 VCRs, 5 component stereo consoles (CD player, amps, tuner, etc.), 2 boomboxes,
two collapsed bookcases, two fishtanks, 3 planters, a music stand, numerous broken computer
boards, small kitchen appliances, broken dishes, and some general dry household trash.
Destruction is extensive. There is no insurance - I could never afford the premiums on my disability income.
So everything here is a total loss, and I still have to hire someone to clean up & haul away all the busted stuff. :(
CLEANUP, DAYS 1-3:
The computer & monitor died off from fishtank water and I had to buy a new motherboard and reformat the hard
disk. Everything was lost, including my HTML editor, two days worth of e-mail,
all of my bookmarks, and my ability to properly connect to my ISP.
The damage continues to mount. Our building's manager commandeered the large
dumpster the roofers had been using, and we (us residents) have been allowed
to dispose of earthquake debris in it. So far I have bagged up & disposed of
around ten 30-gallon Hefty bags of crap, small kitchen appliaces, three chairs,
and two lamps... and I've barely made a dent in the junkpile inside my unit.
Still to be discarded: as many as eight CRTs (computer monitors & TV sets),
several more lamps, two or three VCRs, the whole component stereo set,
bags of clothes soiled by dirty toilet water, a wheelchair, a pile of computer
motherboards and other electronic circuit boards, a fax machine, two fishtanks,
a dishwasher (maybe), dozens of busted insulators and other glassware,
broken dishes, and numerous pieces of furniture smashed or damaged in the
And I haven't even pried open the closet doors to see what's in there.
Using QEDIT to update this page is a little rough, so it probably won't update
again for at least several days. Thank you.
CLEANUP, DAY 4:
I have been awake for approximately 85 out of the last 96 hours, doing little more
than trying to pick through & dispose of broken junk, and getting the computer
The damage tally so far (SHORT VERSION):
And this is just from one room, and a very few items from another.
- 5 computer monitors (the in-use, all the spares, and all the 'fixxer-uppers')
- 1 TV set (19")
- 1 complete set of computer 'guts' (this from the computer I use to do these pages)
- 5 lamps (all five were Christmas/birthday/houswarming gifts over the years)
- 4 chairs
- 2 bookcases
- 3 large planters
- 2 fishtanks
- Numerous computer parts - mainboards, CD-ROM drives, cases
- 1 fax machine (was a gift from P. Casey when he upgraded his)
- Virtually all dishes
- At least half a dozen insulators destroyed, more than 100 damaged
- 3 VCRs (two were originally trashpicked & fixed, one was a Christmas gift)
- Can opener
- Vacuum cleaner
- Large bag of clothing (soiled by sewage)
- Music stand
- Desktop adding machine
- Miscellaneous office supplies (soaked with fish water)
- Several plasma laser tubes (all salvaged from old equipment)
- Electric clippers
- Component stereo (2 amps, tuner, CD deck, cassette deck; all were Christmas gifts from years past)
- 2 portable cassette/CD boomboxes (one thrift store buy, one I actually bought new)
And this is how the dumpster looked at first light the morning of March 5, heading into the 5th day of cleanup..
One room down (sort of), three to go...
Most of the $@* in here is mine, but others have also started using it as of late.
CLEANUP, DAY 5:
The parents came and helped throw another 20 bags of @*! in the dumpster, along
with yet another lamp, lots of broken wood, another monitor with an imploded picture
tube, and everything that was on the kitchen floor. (I have my kitchen back!)
This morning's dumpster, taken just after the roofers came back to reclaim it for themselves.
Only a small quantity of roofing materials have been added - that is what woke me up in time to
grab the camera and shove it out the window. Looks like a bucket and a roll of tarpaper is all
they got in there before I took this. Almost everything else in here is mine. :(
CLEANUP, DAY 9:
Another 35 bags of $*@ have been collected for disposal. Overall cleanup is
around 85% finished.
I have finally gotten into the bathroom, and discovered that everything that was on or
or ended up falling/being thrown to the floor during the quake was soaked in piss & shit from a broken toliet
and had to be disposed of.
The spare toliet seat was also broken and I had to throw it away, but the one that was on the toilet bowl at the time was fine.
A trip to the closet revealed two more monitors, lying face-down in their own glass.
As far as I can see, 1 monitor and 1 TV set remain. Neither works anymore due to impact
but both have intact picture tubes.
My good TV and a 10" computer monitor survived untouched; a 13" set in the bedroom has the face of the picture tube all gouged up
but it still works, and can still be used.
CLEANUP, DAY 11:
The biggest part of the cleanup seems to be almost done. All blown TVs and monitors were set out with the trash, and both closets were checked
for and relieved of broken items.
Another busted lamp was also uncovered.
Except for another big load of bags to get put out tomorrow (nearby gunfire put a premature end to this evening's dump run) most
everything now is just routine crap, like mopping up all the spilled beverages and loading up the vacuum cleaner bag with styrofoam peanuts,
potting soil, broken light bulbs, and spilled laundry soap.
CLEANUP, DAY 12:
Things are beginning to return to normal. Somewhere between 110 and 120 bags of my busted up shit have been dumpstered since cleanup began.
I won't know for certain until I count up all the boxes of Hefty bags I purchased.
The only thing left to go is a roll of carpet, which I am not strong enough to throw away. Tomorrow, I will attempt to cut it into 1' squares with a box knife and dispose
of the pieces in small batches. Should this fail, I may be stuck with it for awhile. :-o
This will be the last dumpster photo. I've been taking the dumpster pictures for FEMA, in case they decide my case is worthy.
This dumpster is from this evening, shortly after I dropped off the last major load. It had been emptied since the last photograph was taken. As in previous pictures, many of the bags and other items are piled along the inside edge where I lobbed them almost vertically over the side, and are not visible from this vantage point. Only one bag is left undisposed of; and once it is full enough to throw out,
that should be it!! This second picture is from this morning (March 12), and it looks like someone's already been dumpster diving since a monitor and a TV are missing.
For the first time since the earthquake, I can fit my wheelchair into all four rooms. And it's so nice to be able to use my own shower again. :)
Here is some of the additional damage that was discovered:
- Another stereo receiver
- Two more boomboxes (I have just one beaten up unit left)
- Another floor lamp
- Two more insulators (both Hemingray #9 type - not very expensive)
- Kodak movie projector
- Overstuffed leopard chair (not discarded, appears repairable)
- Aluminum walker
- Several more computer keyboards
- Closet door was knocked out of its hanging tracks - does not appear permanently damaged at this point.
- Toilet seat
- Telephone table
- Another telephone (this makes three)
- Telephone answering machine
- An unused cellular telephone
The toilet now runs and essentially flushes itself within an hour. Maybe it was ready to break already, as it did not do this before the big shakeup.
But it's nothing a $20 toliet tank repair kit can't fix.
I was wondering what happened when I got around to the picture of the items floating in the water, since I know the water in the bowl wasn't clean before that.
My ears gave away the toilet's secret flushing behavior. :)
Here's the cleanup progression as of early Monday, March 12:
- Kitchen: 95% complete. Everything needs to be washed, the fridge needs to be cleaned out (it's full of busted bottles & jars), but all the big stuff is gone.
- Living room: 98% complete. Storage needs to be found for half a dozen small containers, and the vacuum cleaner needs to come out.
- Laboratory/computer/work area: 50% complete. Mostly items like loose components, spec sheets, mail, insulators, and unused instruments piled up on the bench. Temporary storage of picked-up items related to my work occuring over the last 12 days has created more of a mess here than the earthquake itself did. But I had to put the stuff *somewhere* while the major cleanup was underway.
- Bedroom: 98% complete. Several items need to be moved, and it needs the mop.
- Bathroom: 99% complete. Needs its regular cleaning, and a roll of carpeting needs to be dealt with.
When the cleanup is 100% finished, this page will no longer be updated and it will be left available only until FEMA is completely finished up with me.
No need to waste server space that could be put to better use, like LEDs and LASERS!! :)
CLEANUP, DAY 13:
The cleanup has been halted, while I await the inspector from FEMA to make his rounds.
The people at FEMA told me to stop cleaning but by that time, 99% of everything that needed to be thrown out had been. Thankfully, I took lots of pictures.
This set of pages will remain available to the public until everything is 100% resolved, as I don't need the server space that badly.
If you are a FEMA representative, please feel free to copy, print, or distribute any picture you find within this site for educational or "entertainment" purposes.
1531 1st Ave #305
Seattle WA. 98101-1557
NOTE: The cleanup was resumed several days later, and continued on a slow pace for approximately 40 more days; though most of the heavy
articles were removed within the first two weeks.
After the earthquake, replacement monitors were donated by http://www.7volts.com and
by one anonymous donor (thank you!!); and several members of Candlepower Forums
chipped in a bit to help rebuild the computer and replace laboratory equipment so my participation could continue with only brief interruption.
As of early June, I am now equipped with a 17" monitor to use and a spare monitor in case the new one goes.
The spare is wrapped in multiple layers of paper and bubble wrap, and is stored face-first on the bedroom floor where
nothing can fall onto it in case we have another you-know-what.
I also have a photometer & a couple of inexpensive DMMs to be used for my LED research.
Thanks to those who helped!!
These pictures show what the place looked like after all the cleanup was finished.
Although this page was taken down around Day 60, there are people who simply don't believe - so it is going back up permanently
as a living witness of sorts.
Another living witness (where two of my pictures can also be found) is here: