Thursday, March 14, 2013

In a Matter of Minutes Part 2

By now, we knew that the Good Friday Earthquake had registered 9.2 on the Richter Scale, the strongest earthquake to hit North America in recorded history.

Finally, word from my family came. With trembling fingers, I tore open the letter addressed in my father's handwriting and read quickly. Everyone was safe!

Weak with relief, I sank into a chair to read my mother's postscript. Longer than the letter itself, it described their hair-raising experiences:

When the violent shaking began, my mother wrote, they had all clung to doorposts or anything solid to keep from being thrown to the floor. The shaking seemed to go on and on, but it was only five minutes--a long time for an earthquake. When it finally subsided, they ran outside.

Black smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the air from the huge oil storage tanks just a few blocks away. The quake had ruptured the tanks, and they were belching burning oil that was being channeled through town along the railroad tracks. The quake had generated an immediate tsunami that spread the raging inferno throughout the entire industrial area along the waterfront.

To flee the flames, the townspeople of that town of about 1,800 people jumped into theirs cars and drove toward the lagoon that straddled the only road out of town. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Bumper to bumper, they inched their way across.

They were about midway across when my mother noticed that railroad cars and boats were being pushed up and over the breakwater as though by a giant hand. They sailed toward them--fast!

To her horror, she realized what it was. "Tsunami!" she screamed. "Drive faster!"

My dad swerved into the empty inbound lane and passed the nearly stopped cars. Waves swirled around the tires as they drove up to higher ground. Their's was the last car to make it across before the tsunami crashed across the road right behind them, sweeping away the cars and smashing houses, boats, and huge railroad cars against the cliffs like toys .

Still the nightmare continued. Burning debris from the exploding oil tanks rode the crest of that second tsunami and set the trees at the head of the bay on fire!

About three miles out of town, the line of traffic stopped again. Word passed from car to car, "The bridges are out!" And my family could see that the fire was spreading. They were trapped!

To be continued....

Have you ever been caught in an impossible situation? What did you do?

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