H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Dec 22, 2013 6:00 PM by Victoria Johnson, KSBY News

Ten years since San Simeon earthquake

Ten years ago Sunday, the 6.6 magnitude San Simeon Earthquake shook the Central Coast and left considerable damage in its wake. Through such devastation, communities banded together.

"Quite literally, bricks were sliding across the street since the building across the way had fallen. I saw other people jumping on top of a brick pile and somebody yelling that someone was trapped, so I ran across the street and started pulling bricks," said Christopher Taranto, Communication Director for Paso Robles Wine Country.

The historic clock tower in Paso Robles and other downtown buildings were severely damaged. Two people died that day.

"When there is such loss and you have to just roll up your sleeves and find a way of dealing with it because there is no way out but getting through it, it bonds you," said Meg Williamson, Assistant City Manager for Paso Robles.

Living through that tragedy, lessons were learned in hopes to be better prepared.

"All unreinforced masonry buildings within our downtown core were on a schedule to be retrofitted prior to the earthquake. After the quake, the City Council accelerated that schedule," said Chief Ken Johnson, Paso Robles Fire Department.

A decade later, nearly all buildings in downtown Paso Robles have been rebuilt and retrofitted to make them safer. The Chamber of Commerce building had just been retrofitted before the quake, but rather than fix cracks left in the stucco, they were preserved to serve as a memory of that day. The community came together deciding to reinvest and reestablish what had been destroyed.

"Maybe one of the silver linings, if there could ever be one after such a tragic day, is that so much got built anew in this town and in a way it is welcoming when you come down here to see so many new facades and buildings," said Taranto.

Even emergency responders are now more united.

"We help other departments and they help out us," said Chief Johnson.

Atascadero's City Hall took a decade to rebuild. It is a work of art, mixing the old with the new.

"Literally each brick has to be taken down piece by piece. We were able to reuse most of the wood and restore it," said Tom O'Malley, Mayor of Atascadero.

The restoration was completed just in time to reopen this year to celebrate Atascadero's' centennial.

"Since the quake, it's been phenomenal to see the reopening of our historic city hall. I've never seen so much community pride in town," said O'Malley.

Pride and a deep sense of community were made apparent, especially after the dust settled, when community members rose to the challenge to rebuild.

"Paso Robles simply exudes that sense of community. The earthquake, if anything, tied us a little closer," said Taranto.

Click here for more information from the Red Cross on how to prepare for an earthquake.

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