PASO ROBLES, Calif. – If you’ve ever felt the earth rumble, you know that sinking feeling that hits the bottom of your gut, once the ground decides to roll, or shake your life violently. Such was the case for the people of central California, who got shaken for more than 30 seconds.
Enough to turn the stomach and crumble buildings that had stood the test of time — until Monday.
We arrived in the town of Paso Robles (search) about four hours after a 6.5 magnitude quake destroyed much of the old town area. One two-story building in particular toppled in half, the roof squashing the second story then sliding about 30 feet over the front of the store, crashing down to the sidewalk below.
All that’s left: a severely cracked facade and new metal reinforcement strips meant to help keep the building upright, now tangled among the century-old bricks and chunks of wood that are piled inside the store and onto the street.
Aftershocks came soon after the quake. When one hits, you can feel the room sway just a bit, all the furniture and the building itself creaks as the ground shifts and settles in response to Monday’s earthquake.
Damage estimates are into the multi-millions as homes and buildings in all the surrounding towns and cities suffer cracks in foundations and fireplaces. People continue to tell us their stories — where they were when the earthquake hit, what they were doing and how they’ll always remember this time.
The locals also say they’ll rebuild, once again bringing the old town back to life as a
focal point of this tourist area.
Coincidentally, California’s last major damage quake was three years ago in the Napa Valley area, also a wine touring region. Much of the damage is similar and the scenes I see here remind me of that story, which also caused millions in damage and some major injuries.
Here, large glass windows in many stores are cracked, or destroyed. As we walk around the Paso Robles town square and look inside the shops, we see merchandise and items still strewn about the floor.
The cleanup may be beginning, but it will take time to fully recover. The ones most affected are the people who lost two loved ones killed by a collapsing old brick store.