Roanokers experience earthquake

Feb - 10

Roanokers experience earthquake

Roanoke lawyer Jonathan Rogers had planned to take his family to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands for a vacation, but canceled the trip after Hurricane Hugo demolished the island.

To make up for the missed vacation, he decided to take his wife to San Francisco to visit a friend and see the World Series.

They flew into San Francisco just a few hours before Tuesday’s earthquake.

“It really makes you appreciate the comfort and security of solid Roanoke,” Rogers said today in a telephone interview.

Rogers said he was not in Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit because his World Series tickets are for a couple of the later games.

Rogers and his friend, Douglas Schwartz, a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Roanoke, had just left San Francisco when the quake hit. They had picked up some Chinese food and were driving to Schwartz’s home in Marin County, north of San Francisco, to watch the third game of the series on television.

They were in a hurry because they didn’t want to miss the start of the game, and Schwartz took the occasion to show off the handling of his new Mercedes.

The car began swerving, and Rogers thought his friend was being a bit reckless.

“I thought you’d grown up. What are you doing?” Rogers said he told Schwartz, trying to get him to stop messing around.

The car was bouncing up and down, side to side.

Schwartz looked dumbfounded, wondering what was wrong with his expensive car.

They slowed to a stop, thinking maybe they had a flat or that the engine was about to blow up.

When they stopped, everything continued shaking. Then just as suddenly as it began, it was over. It had lasted only a couple of seconds.

Cars around them continued moving and construction workers resumed working. Rogers figured it was just a routine San Francisco earthquake.

Rogers and Schwartz checked the radio to see what was going on, but most of the stations were off the air or breaking up. It was only later that they found out how lucky they had been and that the earthquake was the second-deadliest in the nation’s history. It was exceeded only by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Howard and Ann Hammersley of Roanoke were in San Francisco when the quake hit. They had arrived just a few hours earlier on a long-planned vacation. They were staying at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf and planned to spend a few days sightseeing.

They had just finished an early dinner and were checking the sights at Ghirardelli Square when the quake hit. Anne Hammersley said she was sitting on a fountain when the ground began shaking. Her husband, retired chief photographer for the Roanoke Times & World-News, was in a nearby store playing a video game.

“The game began jumping and things were falling off the walls, and people began yelling, ëEarthquake. Stand under a doorway,'” Hammersley said. “I didn’t know what was happening.”

Except for the fact that all of the power was out and sirens were blaring, Hammersley said, the evening was calm, beautiful, in fact, with the sky lighted by a full moon and the Goodyear blimp floating around providing live coverage of the damage instead of the World Series.

They didn’t learn until today how deadly the quake had been. And, Hammersley said, he’s looking for a rental car so he can get out.

Farther south, Debbie Williamson, 31, a former Roanoker who moved to San Mateo in 1986, said that when the earthquake hit, she was watching television.

Electric and water service to her second-story apartment were not interrupted, but the cable television service was out for four or five hours, Williamson said.

“It was frighteningávery, very shocking. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I just want to forget about it and return to normal, but I doubt that will happen for a while.

Igor Cherednichenko, who fled the Soviet Union two years ago with the help of friends in Roanoke, was riding in a taxi near San Francisco’s financial district when the quake hit.

Burglar alarms from cars parked along the street began going off at the same time. And then the taxi was hit with bricks and glass, Cherednichenko said.

“We’re under attack.” The taxi driver yelled, thinking a crow of thugs was throwing rocks at them.

Cherednichenko, 31, noticed a utility pole swaying two to three feet. And when he saw dust billowing from old buildings along the street, he thought briefly that it might be a different kind of attack Ö a nuclear attack from his former country.

After they realized it was an earthquake he and the cabbie drove into the financial district where Cherednichenko works as a broker for Stuart-James Investment Bankers.

Cherednichenko rushed into his company’s office and ran up the stairs because the elevators were stalled.

To his surprise, the office was full. Only a few people had fled.

Cherednichenko said that because electricity was off in much of the city, he didn’t learn how extensive the damage was until a few hours later when a friend called him from Roanoke.

The friend, Don Petersen, a photographer with the Roanoke Times & World-News, held the phone up to his television in Roanoke so that Cherednichenko could hear the newscasters describe the death and destruction.