“A Sick Feeling”: Fear, Emotion Grip Quake-Rattled Napa Residents

Napa residents jolted out of bed early Sunday by the worst earthquake to hit the Bay Area in decades described the terror, chaos and disorientation they felt in the moments the temblor struck, and the mix of overwhelming emotion and hope they felt as they took in the scope of the damage.

"It was a sick feeling. The ground was just rolling," lawyer Jeff Hammond told NBC Bay Area on the streets of hard-hit downtown Napa Sunday morning. "This is obviously the worst we've ever seen here."

Hammond, who had been set to appear in court downtown Monday, teared up as he stared at the stately courthouse, built in the 1870s. A huge chunk of its edifice had completely crumbled away. Now, Hammond said, he wasn't sure if the court would even be open Monday.

"It's hard to see," he said. "It just hit me. It just hit me."

Christian Ray, 18, had only ever felt a minor temblor before this morning, when he and his mother were violently roused from their beds in their Napa home. He described the terror and chaos of the moments the quake hit, as he struggled to get out of bed to reach his mom.

"I just heard shaking, and I got really scared," he said. "I heard my mom screaming my name, and I thought, 'What's going on?' I thought something terrible was going on.

"My dresser fell on me and cut up my legs, and then I saw my mom come into my room. She fell, tripped over all my stuff," he said. "Our room is just terrible. It's destroyed, and everything is on the floor, flipped over. It's pretty amazing."

Sunday's was the first earthquake that Dandridge Marsh, 37, a Georgia native who moved to California six years ago, had ever felt.

“We were just sleeping, and all of a sudden there was enormous amount of noise, and our bed started bouncing from side to side,” said Marsh, who works in the wine retail business and lives in Napa with his wife. “You can hear things falling down.”

Marsh said the quake knocked out power immediately, and he made his way, barefoot, to his garage for a flashlight. Broken glass was strewn everywhere, but he wasn't hurt.

“It was pretty wild, coming out and seeing all the cabinets, piano and refrigerator moved a foot over,” he said. “The car was parked in the middle of the garage and is now resting against the garage door.”

Napa resident Karen Schuppert, who was at the World Series game during the 1989 earthquake, said she felt "a lot of rattling" Sunday, compared with the rolling feel of Loma Prieta 25 years ago.

She and her husband got a rude awakening Sunday morning when a mirror fell from their bedroom door and crashed down onto them in bed. Neither of them was hurt, but their home took the brunt of the temblor.

"In every single room, we have so many cracks," she said. "Hopefully they're just superficial and cosmetic, because we have lots of cracks all over the walls." 

Many of the Napa couple's art, pottery and antiques were ruined, but some of their belongings survived entirely unscathed. In the spare bedroom where Schuppert stores inventory for her shoe importing business, Napa Sole, all of the shoes remained safely in their boxes, she said.

"It's just wild what ended up moving," Schuppert said.

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