"Quake rattles us, but damage slight"

"Tonya Scriven, left, and friend Taylor Gavin wait for the all-clear signal to return to the intermediate school after the earthquake.Jim Larsen, staff photoAfter the earth settled Wednesday, South Whidbey came through the biggest earthquake here in 50 years in fine shape.People were scared as the buildings they were in rattled and as the ground bounced around them, but damage from the 6.8 magnitude quake was minimal.Fire District 3 Lt. Don Elliot said Thursday there had been no reports of earthquake-specific damage or problems.Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman said there was no damage to city facilities. Even the old two-story brick City Hall withstood the shaking, although the police offices upstairs took a pounding. Bob found out he could still run pretty fast, said Police Chief Bob Herzberg. Officer Ryan Raulerson said he could see the pavement move when he got outside.The phones were not ringing off the hook at Porter/Whidbey Insurance. In fact, as of Thursday nobody had called with significant household damage.South Whidbey School District reported only a couple of framed paintings that fell from the wall and broke. All facilities survived intact.Island County Emergency Services Director T.J. Harmon said the ferry docks and Deception Pass Bridge were closed for a short time for inspection, but no damage was found.Elsewhere in the Puget Sound region, people were cleaning up an estimated $2 billion in damage from the earthquake, which was centered 30 miles underground between Tacoma and Olympia.But on South Whidbey, there wasn't much cleaning up to do, other than picking up things that fell from the shelves and off the walls. Mostly, people spent the ensuing minutes and hours talking about what they were doing when the earthquake hit.All South Whidbey School District buildings were evacuated according to well-practiced emergency plans as soon as the shaking stopped. Students waited outside while building were inspected. They were allowed back inside within half an hour or so.Outside the Intermediate School, Taylor Gulvin, 9, said she was scared when the shaking started. I felt like things were going to fall down on top of me, she said. At the time the quake hit at 10:45 a.m., most students were outside enjoying recess. But Gulvin was in the computer lab. I waited and they took us out, she said. Now I'm freezing my legs off.Estella Avila, a playground supervisor, said the shaking wasn't very noticeable in the area already active with playing children. We didn't notice it much outside, he said. In the building there was a little shaking. When the emergency bell rang, those outside simply moved to the emergency locations.I felt like I was riding a surfboard, said Tonya Scriven, 9. She was also in the computer lab.Mark Shinner, 8, said he was outside playing with a friend. I felt my legs tremble, he said. It was like crazy. I got scared, a little.Intermediate School Interim Principal Doug Hale was impressed that teachers, other staff and students knew exactly what to do. The plan went really well. Nobody panicked, he said.Langley Middle School, built as a high school in 1935, survived the big earthquakes of 1949 and 1965, and it made it through the quake of 2001 just as well. Again, students were evacuated, but there was no significant damage.Principal Greg Willis said he was in the middle school cafeteria with 125 students when the shaker hit. His immediate thought was the gym floor directly overhead. She held, thank heaven, he said. The kids dove under tables as they had been trained.They reacted immediately, Willis said. Good thing we do the drills.The only middle school damage was a small crack in some plaster, and the students were soon back in school. Ironically, school was closed Friday due to an unrelated electrical problem that first cropped up Tuesday.South Whidbey High School received a good shaking, but no real damage. Some kids were excited to experience a big earthquake. I haven't been in a earthquake before, said Fernanda Pires, 17, an exchange student from Brazil. It was fun -- but I was scared.Tyler Hoch, like most students at the time, was in the commons for the lunch break. All the girls were screaming, he said.Casey Olson, 15, said she was in the library working on a computer. Two or three pictures went flying off the walls, she said.Librarian Tracy Miller said she was at the library counter when the shaking started. I told the kids, 'Get under the tables,' she said. It was a little scary.Metal buildings behind the high school did the most shaking. It was nasty, said art teacher Gene Koffkin, who was installing a silkscreen press. It was really moving. He wasted no time in getting outside where he saw that the students were reacting as planned. There had been a fire drill just the day before. Everything worked just fine, Koffkin said.Staff member Rene Christian was in the lunchroom. Everything just started shaking when they were all eating lunch, she said. There was no panic, they were just scared.Student Jennifer Morton said she was in Room 132 when the quake hit. Everyone saw the room moving, she said. One girl jumped under the table and everyone went after her.Every student in the schools and all the people on South Whidbey had an interesting story to tell about what they were doing when the big earthquake of Feb. 28, 2001 hit. And with no serious damage and no injuries, all the stories have happy endings. "

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