ashakeout stories Al Dorsky

Al Dorsky



From 1983-1985 I was working at EXXON Enterprises, an electronics company in San Jose. During that time a powerful earthquake shook the building. Along with others, I evacuated the building while the earthquake was happening. Looking around I could see the earth moving in waves like the ocean. It passed relatively quickly and there was no damage noticeable. I quickly back to my office and called my wife Susan who was home in Palo Alto to ask her if she felt the earthquake. She answered the phone quickly and said she couldn’t talk because an earthquake was just happening. Surprisingly to me, it took a short period of time for the quake to travel up to Palo Alto. Thankfully there was no notable damage at home.


On October 17, 1989 I was working at Penederm Inc. a pharmaceutical company in Foster City California as a Group Leader of Chemistry and corporate safety officer.. I had just finished doing a yearly performance review of one of my employees and preparing to listen to the World Series on the radio. It was late afternoon and everyone else had gone home. Suddenly there was a rumbling, the floor started moving one way and ceiling another. My office had large windows on 2 sides. I did a duck and cover. When the quake was over, I had to inspect the laboratories which had many bottles of solvents and some radioactive materials. We had take proper precautions and all was OK, some empty bottles fell and there was a noticeable crack in the floor of the main hall but otherwise, all was OK. The radio started giving details of what happened i.e. the Series was interrupted, roadways collapsed etc.

Now I had to worry about getting home. Foster City is sort of an island built on fill. I was worried about liquefaction and the bridge to the Peninsula collapsing. Luckily the engineers that did the landfill did a great job and there was really no appreciable damage in Foster City and the bridge survived. Next problem was a report that overpasses on 101 had been damaged and that the one in Palo Alto had collapsed. It turned out to be incorrect information. I made it out of Foster City and home to Palo Alto with no real problem. At home, the only damage was a shelf in our garage tipped and spilled the contents on the floor, just some boxes etc.

An experience to remember.