• An "Innsider's" View of Napa Valley

Napa Crack’d

If you live in California, it is very likely you have felt the earth convulse. While technically temblors are shakers, and people report rocking and rolling, the ones that have occurred around my domiciles have felt more like a Snap. Crackle. And POP.

I was in Northern California during the 1989 Loma Prieta (10-17-89 6.9), in Napa Valley. I was getting ready to take my daughter out for her one-year pictures and I thought she was pitching a fit – since her crib was slamming against the wall. It was puzzling, and when the radio and television signals immediately went off air, we knew something devastating had happened.

That time, Napa mostly watched the Bay Area’s pain from a ring-side seat.

Labor Day weekend of 2000 (9-4-2000, 5.2), my now-middle-school-aged children were off with friends spending the night. I woke up in mid-air. It is a most unusual feeling. You are sleeping. Then you are awake. And you are not lying on the bed, but have been tossed about 2 feet above it. As I banged back into the mattress, I simultaneously heard the rather loud crashing of glass, pottery, plants, and furniture – in my house, and my neighborhood. The darkness descended completely and quickly, as all power for blocks was wiped out.

My neighbor came by with a wrench to shut off my gas and inquired about my safety. I yelled from my bed that the dogs and I were fine, and I went back to sleep until daylight came and clean-up began.

We picked up our fences, and repaired our chimneys, and moved forward.

This year (8-24-14, 6.0), I had just left town on vacation. Earlier in the month, I was awakened by one of the smaller earthquakes preceding the 6.0. We hadn’t reached our destination, but were close. So, we stopped at 4 in the morning and made copious calls. My house had a broken water pipe, and again neighbors arrived to assess and assist. My office was in the historic district of downtown and escaped much of the structural damage that befell some of the other brick and stone architectural beauties. I missed most not being with my team to help respond to the situation.

I was not spared, however, from clean-up. Like most, I lost significant amounts of glassware, light fixtures, food, picture glass and frames. My house was recently remodeled and structurally survived with only scuffs. A blessing since earthquake insurance is expensive, has a huge deductible (think $30K), and most of us don’t have it.

I lost – again – all my glass bowls. Every one of them broke in the 2000 earthquake, and all those I had collected over the last dozen years are now also gone. If I lost one of a pair of candle holders in the 2000 quake, I did NOT lose the other one in this quake. I lost one out of my new sets. So, I am eating cereal and soup out of a small set of stainless mixing bowls, and I have an artistic collection of “eclectic” candle holders.

I am constantly amazed at Mother Earth’s latent power, and not surprised that sometimes she shouts at me to clean my room. Luckily, most of us lost just stuff.

The earth still smelled fresh, and the harvest still proceeds. We pick up the bricks, repair the facades, clean up the debris. We help our neighbors, and business associates, and we welcome the world back to our doorstep. We love it here. Every year we crush, and some years we crack.

Melodie Hilton

View posts by Melodie Hilton
Director of Marketing and PR for the Napa River Inn, and long-time Napa resident. Hilton started her career as a journalist, working many years covering food, travel, and news.
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