Tread softly.. . Don't stamp your feet or otherwise
jar the floor in the vicinity of Captain Chorpening or any member
of his inspection group, all recently returned from Helena. Don't
even drop another "R", you Southerners.. .If you do, you
may be startled to see your fellow workers dive suddenly under the
nearest desk or out the window.., for Chorpening's men have just
lived through a real, honest to goodness earthquake, and are still
supersensitive to sudden noises and shaking floors.
Prior to 11:43 am on October 31, they had prowled
through ghostly ruins, secure in their belief that the quakes were
diminishing in intensity and happy in the thought that their knowledge
of building construction was being put to practical use. They had
commiserated with the timid but kindly Mother Superior at St. Vincents
who had felt her beloved abode tortured and wracked by terrible
unseen power, the marble and plaster saints tumbled from their niches
and shattered on the floors. But amongst themselves, the men had
joked about her remark that "since the first quake, (she) couldn't
see straight... everything looked jumbled." They thought that
she and the others with whom they'd talked were drawing heavily
on their imaginations.
Now, even they will tell you that the power of an
earthquake must be experienced to be appreciated, for no two men
will agree in describing their sensations during those few awful
seconds of a major quake, but all will agree that it is terrifying.
Surely no man-made structure couk[withstand another such insanely
heaving and grinding shock. . .Death must surely lie just around
Captain Chorpening's party was sent to Helena to assist
that city's authorities in determining the safety of occupancy for
buildings damaged by the earthquake of October 18th. In the group
H.H. Dunham,G.V.R..Gloyd, H.V. Pennington, A.H.Buckley,and Gus Peters
representing, you will note, almost every section of Fort Peck operations
except the Safety section. The party spent six days in the stricken
city, inspecting and reporting on a number of buildings, and experiencedmore
than a hundred minor quakes before the severest one of October 31st.
The buildings were carefully inspected and written reports of the
conditions found, conclusions regarding safe occupancy and recommendations
for rendering them safe for occupancy were submitted to the Helena
City Engineer by Captain Chorpening.
The damage from the second major quake, which occcured
October 31st, practically nullified the value of these reports,
inasmuch as nearly all of the buildings previously inspected suffered
additional damage. All of the school buildings and certain public
buildings were reinspected after this second quake and notes were
taken of the additional damage and submitted. As the local newspapers
have stated, the earthquake's damage to property in Helena is extensive
and will probably amount to severaf million dollars. The new Helena
High School alone probably represents a loss of three to four hundred
In general, brick buildings suffered the most, especially
those with brick facings not adequately bonded into the walls behind
them. Frame contstructions suffered very little; and most buildings
of standard reinforced concrete, with the notable exception of the
new High School, withstood the shocks very well. Ceiling plaster
was cracked and loosened or dislodged throughout the city. With
few exceptions, basement and foundation walls suffered little or
no damage, even in buildings otherwise severely affected. Chimneys
and parapet walls fared badly.
Definite conclusions as to how quake-proof or quake-
resistant buildings ~an or should be built can only be made after
thorough comparative analysis of the structural weaknesses developed
in}lelena and elsewhere. Still, as this article is appearing in
a magazine devoted to Safety, it seems proper to express here these
few DONT's for construction in earthquake prone areas:
DON'T permit plaster ceilings damaged by leaky roofs
or plumbing to remain unrepaired.
DON'T build brick parapet walls without a good
waterproof coating on the rear side of the wall.
DON'T permit parapet walls, copings and chimneys
above roofs to get into a loosened condition.
And to those who may be led by duty or curiosity into
an area of quake activity, here are a few additional DONT's:
DON'T venture into roped-off streets: A loosened
or falling wall may get you.
DON'T situnder achandeiier.orÄany- heavy-upright
piece of furtniture or wall decor.
DON'T sleep in or occupy for long any room with
loosened or damaged plaster.
It should please you to know that the typical Fort
Peck temporary house, or even one of the government barracks, with
their frame construction and light-weight wallboard ceilings, would
be relatively safe places to occupy during a severe quake, as long
as they were at a safe distance from higher, heavier structures.
The author of this contribution to SAFETY NEWS freely
admits that on the night of October 31st, as he took a last doubtful
look at the cracked plaster on the ceiling of his sixth floor room
in Helena's Placer Hotel, counted the seconds between the shivers
and tremors that continued to shake his nerves, and reluctantly
climbed into bed.. .he yearned most affectionately for his little
grey home in Fort Peck,
The writer of the following report on the injuries
suffered in the Helena quake is trying to chisel into the Safety
Section. (How about it,Mr. Woodruff?)
HELENA INJURY REPORT
1. Lotta Potts.. .Chambermaid at Quaker Hotel
Injury: Severe bruises on rump and thighs:
Caused by: Lack of preparedness
Miss Potts, upon retiring, lay face downward, following her
own peculiar custom. A large chunk of falling plaster caused the
injury to that portion of her anatomy nearest the ceiling. Having
been warned of the danger from earthquakes, she should have been
wearing a bustle as recommended in Section 12 of the Earthquake
2. Delia A. Hand. ... Bridge expert
Injury: Abrasion on left ankle
Caused by: Inattention.
While attempting to dodge falling bricks in the hillside street
near her home, she was knocked down and run over by a car which,
insecurely parked, had been jarred loose from the curb by the
quake. Miss Hand should have paid no attention to falling bricks
until after she had carefully inspected all the parked cars on
3. Mort. R. Bott... Brickmason
Injury: Broken leg and severe body contusions
Caused by: Lack of Preparedness
Mr. Bott was repairing damaged brickwork at the top of a tall
smokestack and was thrown to the ground by the violence of the
second quake. He would have been uninjured had he been equipped
with the approved latest model skyhook.
4. Plen T. Sharp.. .Sword swallower and Juggler
Injury: Loss of hearing in one ear
Caused by: Unsuitable procedure
Mr. Sharp was eating a late supper at the time of the first major
quake. His usually steady hand was shaken, and a pea, dislodged
from his knife, flew into his right ear. He neglected to report
the accident until the pea had sprouted. Mr. Sharp should have
been eating turnips, knowing as he did that he was within the
Gus Peters, sent with Captain Chorpening's expedition to subdue
the recent "uprisings" at Helena, was the only one who
got something there for nothing.. .a free haircut. The barber started
with his clippers at the nape of Gus's neck and had nearly reached
his left ear when the quake hit. As razors, mirrors and shaving
mugs clattered to the floor, the barber fled and Gus got the job
finished back in Fort Peck.