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Disclaimer: All names of people, places, things, literary and creative works of art are used lovingly in this work of fiction. None of them belong to this author, no profit is derived from this use.
The Los Angeles Times
May 21, 2003
“It’s just gone. It’s all gone.”
Sinkhole swallows the town of Sunnydale whole
By Martina Ruiz
Special to The Los Angeles Times
SUNNYDALE, Calif — There’s no town. Just an enormous crater, empty space several miles wide, where all of Sunnydale once stood.
“It’s a miracle that we have no reported deaths,” said Robert Shale, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “Our brave emergency workers are searching for anyone who might have chosen to stay, but from all initial reports, nearly all of the thousands of people who once called Sunnydale home were safely out of town when this happened.”
A quiet bedroom community on the coast, Sunnydale boasted a population of about 55,000 and the University of California at Sunnydale. Heeding reports from seismologists about potential catastrophic activity, the grand majority are reported to have evacuated for surrounding towns and emergency shelters set up in Bengston and Rocky Bay. President George Bush declared the town a disaster area yesterday evening, as news of town’s collapse broke, and Federal Emergency Management officials are already assessing the damage.
Governor Gray Davis will tour the site later today and visit with evacuees at the surrounding emergency shelters.
To access the site and search for any holdouts, emergency teams must either rappel down sheer cliff faces or trace their way down the few steep and winding ravines left by the sinkhole. Rocky Bay Red Cross worker Herman Diaz said that he and several dozen workers had made an initial sweep of the “crater’s” circumference on a search-and-rescue operation, looking for any survivors.
National Guard Commander Aaron Grant said that although the teams had experienced no aftershocks or other seismic activity as of yet, the likelihood that more will occur is adding another element of danger to the operation. Once down in the crater, Grant said, crews immediately move forward, as far away from the rim of the crater as they can get, to avoid potential falling debris.
“It’s just gone. It’s all gone,” said Diaz, thirstily drinking water after several hours down in the crater. “I rappelled several hundred feet to the bottom, and we walked where we could and called out for anyone. We’d like to bring in the scent dogs, but how are you going to get them down here? It’s hard enough for those of us with two feet.”
Diaz described the scene inside the crater as a “tossed salad” of broken rock and twisted metal, with “cars on end, buildings all torn apart, down to their bricks.”
The National Guard and local emergency teams have set up a barricade around all major points of access to the crater, and have set guards on the perimeter to prevent anyone from getting too close. The Guard is ordering all non-emergency personnel and civilians to steer clear of Sunnydale, warning that they are unsure how secure the rim is in places, and a fall would likely be fatal at these heights.
At least a week before the event, local seismologists warned the Sunnydale community of impending danger, citing a sharp increase in the amount of seismic activity in the area. Worried about the stability of the town, since the entire valley of Sunnydale sat atop a honeycomb of limestone caves, they encouraged swift evacuation, aided by local emergency management officials. The scope of the devastation, however, was far beyond what the seismologists were expecting, according to UCS seismologist Wanda Van de Poll.
“We were thinking sinkholes, but nothing on this level,” said Van de Poll. “The entire town was built on a system of limestone caverns – and that was over a hundred years ago, so what were they going to do? But the whole town, all at once – that’s just unprecedented.”
While Van de Poll did not rule out more seismic activity in the region, she said that yesterday’s event had “wiped out” the system of limestone caves for the most part, making more sinkholes unlikely. She did note that at the time of the sinkhole, the force of the town’s collapse forced the rise of a large shelf of rock, preventing the crater from being flooded by the nearby ocean.
People evacuated from the town greeted the news with varying levels of shock, disbelief, and tears. The word spread like wildfire throughout emergency shelters in Bengston and Rocky Harbor, and people clustered around televisions and radios to better understand what had just happened to their home.
“I won’t believe it,” said Sheila Rosenberg, who evacuated to the Benjamin Harrison Memorial School gymnasium in Rocky Harbor. “I can’t believe it. Not until I see it.”
Others, like Delia Osbourne, evacuated to the Bengston Community Center, accepted the news with resigned, if unsurprised expressions.
“Better than some ways it could have gone,” said Osbourne, in response to a query about the destruction of Sunnydale. She declined to elaborate.
Still others are waiting for news to see where loved ones and friends are, or if they even made it out. In the Happy Times Motor Court, more than a few evacuees packed in hotel rooms, among them Dawn Summers, 16.
“We left yesterday morning, not long before the collapse,” said Summers. “The ground was shaking, and we figured we should probably get out while we could. We drove away, and up the hill. Then there was a noise – not a roar, but a sound that just kind of slammed against your ears. Then it was silent.”
Summers motioned to her older sister, Buffy, who evacuated with her yesterday.
“She doesn’t do much but look at the horizon, and you can’t even see the crater from here,” Summers said. “A friend of ours, her friend, especially, wanted to stay behind. We don’t know if he got out.”
The elder sister declined comment. The Summers sisters are looking for their friend, William Jennings, last seen at the Sunnydale High School. Anyone wishing to find loved ones or friends can call the hotline at 1-800-555-3498, for a search of the survivors’ list, or read up online at the GOES Web site at www.goescalif.com. Please note that these lists are partial, and may not include those who evacuated to a friend’s or somewhere besides the emergency shelters.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/282012.html