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Editor's Note: Quake had newsrooms scrambling

“What was that?”

The fact I even had to ask differentiated me from plenty of folks in Crescent City, who were well aware the earth was quaking at 4:27 p.m. Saturday. Others sensed nothing at all.

Laura and I heard it rather than felt it, as if a big airplane was flying over, except the rumble was too brief for that.

The cell phone rang. Reporter Adam Madison had just finished his Saturday shift — or thought he had. He’d gotten home in time to feel the jar, although he wasn’t sure what caused it. We speculated about an explosion. He went back into reporter mode and called again minutes later.

A six-point-something off the coast of Eureka.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter that some of us hadn’t even felt the earth move. And frankly, as far as The Triplicate was concerned, for a moment it didn’t matter what devastation may have just been visited on Humboldt County. What mattered, especially in a city pretty much known as the tsunami capital of the lower 48 states, was the potential for a tidal wave.

Relief came in the form of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Web site, which noted the 6.5 quake had occurred about 10 miles underwater and that no tsunami was expected. Local authorities confirmed this, and we posted the all-clear at triplicate.com.

Now we could report the story as strictly an out-of-town-but-nearby earthquake. Adam worked the phones. Reporter Kurt Madar interviewed local folks. Reporters Nick Grube and Kelley Atherton, who were inside a Eureka store when the shaking started, provided a brief telephone account, and stopped by the office upon their return for a debriefing.

As we posted several Internet updates, I couldn’t help wondering what was going on at the Eureka newspaper. It had posted nothing, apparently the victim of a widespread power outage.

I half-expected to see the Times-Standard vending machi­ne empty when I walked up to it outside Safeway on Sunday morning. Instead, I found six full pages of earthquake coverage, heavy on photos and complete with a sidebar about how the newspaper had scrambled to put out the paper with laptops — including one that was lit up in the parking lot by the headlights of employee vehicles.

In other words, they did what they had to do. I was proud of my colleagues to the south, and a little jealous that they had a Sunday paper in print. The Triplicate’s next edition would have to wait until Tuesday, with us posting additional Internet updates in the meantime.

Resourcefulness is what keeps newspapers going these days, especially when disaster strikes close enough for them to be part of the story.

 

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