Family recovering from Easter quake

   Ramona resident David Williams and his family couldn’t have known that anything else would’ve gone wrong. 

   In April, their week-long vacation of wakeboarding and fun in the sun just a few miles south of Mexicali, Mexico, began rather ominously. 

   “It was real windy when we arrived Wednesday night,” said Williams.  “Thursday morning it rained, Friday night one of the kids left the water on in the trailer and it flooded the trailer.”

   The next night, while they were out, one of the dogs got into the fishing gear.  “And when we came home,” said Williams, “he had a hook through his nose.” 

   “I started thinking, ‘after Friday and Saturday night, maybe we should have left at that point,’” Williams said wryly.

   And then there was the earthquake. 

   On Sunday, April 4, the region was ravaged by a major 7.2 magnitude quake.

“It was like a bad movie the way the earth opened up,” said Williams. “It shook so hard.”

   The rumbling he and his family felt has become known as the “Easter quake.”

   “When it hit, I was right next to a tree, so I grabbed the tree, but the kids were knocked down to the ground,” Williams said. “The ground started cracking and I literally had to tell my kids to jump across, as it was opening up!”

   Williams, his wife, son and two daughters were staying in a community of homes built on farmland that was no longer workable due to flood damage many years ago.  He had built a garage there less than two years ago.  Alongside the land there flowed a river, which the family used for boating and wakeboarding. 

   During the quake, Williams saw trucks bouncing from one side to the other and his garage was basically leveled, he said.

   The family was able to get out in the open, Williams said. “And luckily nobody got hurt. Nobody along the whole river got hurt, which was amazing because some of those homes were just destroyed.”

   Williams said he had no prior warnings of any quake activity, although he had heard from locals afterward that they had felt some rumblings days before. 

   A patron at the local bar had predicted that there would be a big one coming, he added.

   The area is known to have a high level of historical seismicity, according to the U.S. Geological Survey website, usgs.org.  This was the largest earthquake to hit the area since 1892, the website showed.

   After the rumbling stopped, water immediately started coming up not only from the ground, but from everywhere, said Williams.  Later, Williams ascertained that the flooding was the result of the water tables being pushed upward.

   “Everything got muddy,” he said.  “The roads all got flooded — and it’s the weirdest mud down there.”  He described it as being like “super-sticky clay.”

The mud trapped his truck until neighbors aided him in towing it out. A 4x4 truck was used in the first attempt, but it wasn’t able to free Williams’ truck. A John Deere tractor did the job, said Williams.

   Once freed from the mud and on the move, the family drove to a friend’s home and gathered around a fire. 

   “As it got colder and colder, everybody went to their cars because nobody wanted to go into their houses,” Williams said.  “You really didn’t get much sleep anyway because of all of the aftershocks.  It was quite the experience.”

   His oldest son thought the earthquake was “cool,” Williams said. His two daughters were a “little freaked out.”  He told them that they had “just lived through something that not a lot of people are going to see.”

   Williams had experienced the Northridge earthquake in 1994, a quake, he said, that was quite a shock, but didn’t compare to this one in Mexico.

   The next day they were able to find a road out. 

   “We didn’t want to spend another night outside,” he said.

   The wait to cross the border was over 3-1/2 hours, but the family didn’t seem to mind after all they had experienced.

   Since then, Williams has returned to the site to assess the damage and evaluate the situation.

   “It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” said Williams. “We ended up abandoning our old property and buying another one two doors down, which had sustained very little quake damage.”

   With a much bigger living space, a dock, a large garage and a beach, the children were excited about returning, Williams explained.

   The family’s last visit was over Memorial Day weekend.

   “I have to say that it was a pretty moving experience to see such a large crowd back at the river repairing their homes, helping others recover and having a good time.”

   Since the Easter quake, there have been several aftershocks in the area, with the USGS recording a 4.3 magnitude trembler as recently as Wednesday, June 2.

“We were awakened both nights we were there with some pretty good shakes, but I had warned the kids that they would be coming and not to worry,” Williams said.

Everyone in the family feels much safer because the new place isn’t made of bricks, he said.

   Already cautious since the Cedar fire went through their Ramona home’s backyard in 2003, the Williams’ try to keep extra supplies on hand just in case.

   “We have flashlights, a generator and plenty of canned goods and water as far as precautions we’ve taken at home,” said Williams.

   “It’s tough to say if it will better prepare us for future quakes in this area.  I have thought about strapping more things to the walls like we did after the Northridge quake, but some things are going to catch you off guard no matter how much you plan.  I think a 7.2 earthquake falls into that category.”

   When Williams isn’t experiencing Mother Nature’s adventures, he’s writing about adventures of a different kind. He operates the website wakeworld.com, the world’s largest online wakeboarding publication in terms of readership.

   
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