Bay City grapevine

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Bay City Grapevine

Featuring the latest news happenings in and around Bay City, Oregon, plus occasional features, a weekly column and a picture or two every now and then. And, from time to time, we’ll throw in a bit of humor or tongue-in-cheek commentary on world events. Read and enjoy

-- John R. Sollman, Editor and Publisher

Bay City United Methodist Church

Surviving a Tsunami

Bay City United Methodist Church


Articles this issue:

Over The Back Fence

Letters to the editor

Dr. William C. Hawk and the Tillamook Bay Hospital

The Rise and Fall of the "San Francisco of the North"

The Bay City/Tillamook newspaper wars of 1891-‘93

Earthquake Survival

The Slug's Eye View

Add me to the Grapevine email list

A Farewell to John Gettman
Memorial service will be held at Waud’s Funeral Home on Wednesday, November 18, at 11 AM.



BAY CITY, November 13, 2015

A Farewell to John Gettman

John Gettman, long time Bay City resident, passed away at 11:11 a.m., November 13, 2015. He died peacefully, surrounded by his family.



John was born in Lincoln, Neb., on March 16, 1926. He joined the Navy on March 20, 1943, just days following his 17th birthday. Following boot training, he became a Radioman striker and ultimately a Radioman, where he served aboard ship in the Pacific Theater during WWII. He was discharged from the Navy on March 9, 1947, having served just a few days less than four years.

During the Okinawa campaign, John witnessed Japanese Kamikaze attacks on his own ship and other ships in the area.

While in San Francisco in October of 1945, just after the end of the war in the Pacific, John and his sweetheart, Dorothy Blom, an Oregon native, decided to tie the knot, a decision not kindly received later by Dorothy’s mother.


John was 19,and Dorothy was 17. John had always wanted a motorcycle, and, with the help of a relative, managed to purchase one for himself. Dorothy, was staying with her aunt in the San Francisco area, who expressed serious misgivings about allowing Dorothy to ride on that contraption behind John. But, John took a few turns around the block to prove that he knew how to operate a motorcycle, and that Dorothy would be perfectly safe with him.

But, unable to marry in California without parental consent, John and Dorothy headed for Reno, Nevada, where the laws about young couples marrying were much more liberal.

As luck would have it, John’s new toy broke down somewhere in the Sierras, and he had to leave it behind. This being the year during which the war ended, the motorcycle was an older model, probably built in the mid- to late thirties. So, John and Dorothy hitchhiked their way to Nevada, leaving behind his dress uniform and other essentials in his saddlebags.

But there was a complication. Upon reaching the state line, no driver would ferry the couple across the line into Nevada --- something about transporting a minor female across a state line. So they caught a bus.

In Reno, John and Dorothy found one of Nevada’s ubiquitous wedding chapels to enter into marital bliss. Trouble was, that John had only $15 with him, from which he had to pay two bus fares, the cost of the marriage license, and the fee for the person who officiated. They had to ask a cab driver parked outside the chapel to come and act as witness.

But, the couple managed to scrape by, and when it was over, had a whopping $1.50 in their possession. Dorothy still has that dollar bill in her possession.

The problem now was getting back to Treasure Island, an infamous receiving station in San Francisco Bay, part of a gulag of receiving stations along all three coasts. But the Navy was quick to give the couple a ride back. John was wearing undress blues, a working uniform, which was not worn outside the base when on liberty. It wasn’t long before a member of the Shore Patrol stopped him and asked for his liberty card and out-of-bounds pass. Of course, John couldn’t provide these items because he was technically absent without leave, and was out of bounds from his duty station. In those days, sailors couldn’t travel farther than 50 miles from their duty station, and Reno is a lot farther from San Francisco than 50 miles.

So, the Shore Patrol arrested John and put him aboard a special train headed for Sparks, Nevada, and thence to San Francisco. Dorothy was assigned a member of the Shore Patrol to make sure she was safe, and they put her aboard the train upon its return from Sparks. She sat across from her new husband, who was cuffed to another prisoner bound for the brig on Treasure Island.

John spent his wedding night in the brig, while Dorothy stayed with a relative in the Bay area. In the morning, John was taken to Captain’s Mast, where the Captain, upon hearing John’s story, dismissed the charges against him and issued him a three-day pass.

Two years later, in 1947, John was honorably discharged from the Navy as a Third Class Radioman. He thought about reenlisting, but the Navy, at that time, didn’t offer the kinds of schools John wanted, so he joined the Air Force. He retired from the Air Force in 1966 as a Chief Master Sergeant.

During his Air Force service, John served in communications intelligence. He and Dorothy spent about four years in Tripoli, and they also served in many other locations throughout the Pacific and in the States.

Upon his discharge, John returned to Nebraska and went into business with his father, who owned and operated Gettman and Sons Locksmiths. On their 25th wedding anniversary, many of the area locksmiths held a renewal of their wedding vows in a most unusual ceremony, where John and Dorothy were cuffed together and suffered a number of other comedic indignities. But in 1995, John and Dorothy went back to Reno, once again to renew their vows.

In the late 1980s, John and Dorothy moved to Bay City, where John became involved in civic affairs with the City of Bay City and Tillamook County. He was a regular attendee at City Council meetings, as well as meetings of the Board of County Commissioners. He was especially involved in the Tillamook Soil and Water Commission.

John was appointed to the City Council in 1998, filling a vacancy following the death of Mayor Al Griffin. He remained on the Council until his resignation in 2015.

During his service on the Council, John engaged in voluminous research on every topic imaginable. He never hesitated to offer advice and guidance to the Council, which was often grudgingly received. But, in the end, the Council was glad John provided advice and guidance on a multitude of issues. He also reviewed the budget and City expenditures before each meeting, never hesitating to tell the City where it had erred.

Mayor Shaena Peterson confided to me that John was sometimes a real pain, “but we loved him for it.” He had, in fact become a genuine icon for the City of Bay City, and kept the City from making serious errors and getting into trouble.

The City awarded John a plaque for his many services to the City of Bay City during his term as a member of the City Council. But by the time the plaque was ready for presentation, John’s health was failing badly, so I delivered the plaque to him at his bedside. He was very happy and overwhelmed to receive it, and we had a very nice chat while he held his plaque tightly in his hands.

John is survived by Dorothy, his wife of 70 years; his two daughters, LaRea Freeman and Sherry Gettman; his two sons, Richard and John; seven grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Waud’s Funeral Home on Wednesday,November 18, at 11 AM. Following the memorial service, there will be an informal reception, time and location to be announced.

John will be buried at Willamette Cemetery, date and time to be announced.

I, personally, will miss John, who taught me a lot about city government, practically all I know. Certainly, I will miss his attendance at our Planning Commission meetings, at which he would never fail to toss the Commission many tidbits about urban planning.

John’s character might be summed up by his favorite saying: “A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

John, my friend, you will be sorely missed.

John R. Sollman




Surviving a Tsunami

BAY CITY, March 22, 2011 --- By now, everyone is familiar with the chilling images out of Japan, of the wall of water crashing through a coastal city, destroying everything in its path. Houses were lifted from their foundations and swept ahead of the flood, crashing into and destroying more buildings, the wave sweeping away everything in its path --- boats, automobiles, bridges, structures --- nothing survives. Wood buildings which survived the inland rush of water were then swept back out to sea, leaving behind them a scene of absolute, total devastation.

Those living in the path of the tsunami had scant moments to prepare themselves and evacuate; thousands met their deaths before it was all through. The magnitude 9 quake which produced the tsunami was the high point of a seismic event which is not over yet. The major quake was preceded by a series of precursor quakes ranging in size up to about magnitude 7.2. Following the main event, there have been hundreds of aftershocks.

On the Oregon Coast, we had about eight hours warning that a tsunami was due. Those who have NOAA radios heard three warnings, the first about midnight setting a tsunami watch, then two more, the final one setting a tsunami warning.

Those who stayed up watching television saw the waves arrive at the Hawaiian Islands. About four hours later, they arrived on the West Coast of the United States. As our Fire Chief, Don Reynolds, put it, "it was a far-off event, giving us the advantage of time." The Fire Department, Reynolds said, showed up in force and were eager to get to work.

But, Reynolds explained, "I didn't want my people out in the field before the sirens rang," which they did for the first time about 6 a.m. The sirens rang two more times after that, the last one about 20 minutes before the expected arrival of the tsunami wave.

The Fire Department was out in force after the first siren sounded, knocking on doors in the Goose Point area. People were getting ready to leave, Reynolds said, but he noted that, except for knowing where they were going to go, they were not particularly well prepared. They were taking with them a goodly supply of comfort foods, Reynolds said. But, he added, "they were ready to roll when we came to the door."

It was Bay City's good fortune that tsunami's arrival coincided with an extraordinarily low tide. The configuration of the land also helped protect residents of the Tillamook Bay area. Other areas farther to the south did not fare as well; Brookings Harbor and Crescent City were especially hard hit.

And another noteworthy point. The first wave was expected to hit about 7:20 a.m. My daughter, who has a place on Siletz Bay, went to high ground early in the morning and returned home about 9 a.m. She reported that Siletz Bay was filling and emptying every 15 minutes. It did this about eight times, she said. The lesson to be learned is that the tsunami may continue for several hours after the first wave hits, and it is unsafe to go anywhere near the water until local authorities have determined that it is really over.

The major area of concern in Bay City, Reynolds said, is Goose point. But there are other areas of serious concern as well, including the low-lying businesses along U.S. 101 and downtown Bay City.

The recent event was spawned by a far-off quake, Reynolds said. While the City had a full eight hours to prepare for this tsunami, the occurrence of a quake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone is quite another matter. In that case, the people living in Goose Point and the low-lying areas of Bay City will have a scant 20 minutes to get to high ground, if even that.

There is every possibility that there will be no siren, and the only warning the people will have is the prolonged violent shaking of the ground. As soon as the shaking stops, people need to make for the nearest high ground, preferably on foot, since the roads in many places will be impassible. The Bayocean Spit four miles away and the railroad dike in Bay City may afford some small protection from the tsunami, but it probably won't be much if the images from Japan are any indication.

Moreover, when the "big one" comes, Fire Department responders won't be in the field until they have seen to the safety of their own families. The firefighters will perform much more ably in the field if they're not worrying about the safety of their loved ones.

Throughout Bay City, the roads are marked at the 80-foot level, though some of the markings are getting faint and hard to see. Every family should survey its own situation and determine where to go when the "big one" hits.

The City of Bay City is fortunate to have had a preview of things to come. There is no question of whether we will suffer a major subduction quake. The question is when it will occur, and, sadly, there is no known means today to make that prediction. We know only that such a quake has occurred about every 300 to 500 years, and the last one occurred on the evening of January 26, 1700. That is known from Japanese records of their so-called "orphan tsunami."

So what do we do? Reynolds proposes to address this question at informal meetings with the residents of Bay City's neighborhoods. The first will be for the residents of Goose Point, Reynolds said. He proposes to go door-to-door and hand out flyers advising the residents of the time and place of the meeting for their neighborhood.

It is also recommended that Bay City residents read the op-ed piece by Edward Wolf, Jay Raskin and Yumei Wang in the Monday, March 21, Oregonian, discussing five lessons Oregonians should learn from the tragedy in Japan. Copies of The Oregonian may be found in any Tillamook County library.

Most importantly, there will be chaos immediately following a major seismic and tsunami event, and people must prepare for their individual survival. That will consist of preparing a family survival kit and developing a family survival plan. Individual survival will be discussed in greater detail in an upcoming article in the Grapevine. Until then, it is strongly recommended that you attend the meeting scheduled for your neighborhood.

Residents' ideas will be most welcome at these meetings. Residents may get more information about the meetings, or individual survival preparations, by calling the Fire Department at (503) 377-0233.

As Reynolds says, "When it quits rockin', you should be walkin'."




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Over The Back Fence
John R. Sollman, Editor and Publisher

BAY CITY, January 20, 2016 — Happy New Year, wet as it has turned out to be. Sorry for the long delay in keeping you informed about goings-on in the City, but it’s been a very busy time for the Sollman household.

And the Rains Came
Quite a shower we had Dec. 7 and 8. I swear, I saw the animals pairing up and looking for some kind of Ark to carry them safely to dry land.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, I poured three inches of water from my rain gauge. Quite a bit of rain for a single day. But on the morning of Dec. 9, only 22 hours later, I poured out five and one quarter inches. Now that’s a load of rain in anyone’s book. But my voyage of discovery was only just beginning.

As I drove down my gravel drive, I saw that most of my gravel had been washed down onto Portland Ave., the water having scoured out several channels down my drive. When I reached Portland Ave., looking to the west, I saw what appeared to be a miniature version of the forest I saw in the middle of Portland Ave. following the storm of Dec. 2007.

A lot of dirt and brush had sloughed off the properties bordering Portland Ave., and the place was a mess.

Later in the day, when I turned onto 9th Street, I found that the southbound lane had been lost in a big sinkhole. It doesn’t appear that 9th Street will be reopened any time soon.

Bob Miles, whom I saw at the Center Market, told me that Patterson Creek had overflowed its banks in the Al Griffin Memorial Park.

I’m sure that I have just scratched the surface of the storm damage in Bay City.

Later in the day, the City crew had cleaned up most of Portland Ave., including some of the gravel that had washed down from my drive. Looks like I’m going to need to replace some rock. But much of it had become rounded over years of use, so it’s probably time to get some new, sharper rock anyway.

T.J. Robinette
T.J. Robinette’s need continues, and will for some time.

T.J. had corrective surgery earlier in November, and his mom, Heather, said he is doing well.

She told us that he was looking forward to eating his favorite foods, but he’s impatient having to go at it so slowly. He has found that, after a long period of minimal use, his innards have to rebuild their muscle tone to be able to handle all of his favorite goodies.

An account, the Robinette Family Fund, is still accepting donations at Umpqua Bank.

Burning Season
Remember, this being a new year, you’ll need to renew your burn permit before doing any burning. Burn permits can be obtained at the City Office, and there is no charge.

Please note that the City Office remains open half days, until the new employee, Debbie Pohs, is fully up to speed. And, Debbie, welcome aboard, if you’ll pardon the Navy lingo.

Dog Lovers Take Note
The new year is upon us in all its fury. But, in addition to working on our abominable taxes, we need to do something for our pooches as well. They need to get their licenses renewed. I did the deed in December, and my dog got an interesting number. It’s 007. But she doesn’t behave much like a master spy, but more like a cuddly ball of fur in search of treats.

Click here for more back fence. . .


Mill at Bay City razed by fire
By Peter B. Smith

THE TILLAMOOK HEADLIGHT, May 21, 1924 — "The Oregon Silver Spruce Company's mills at Bay City were totally destroyed by fire Monday afternoon and evening, and the entire city threatened with flames by a stiff southwest wind.

"The fire started in a hot journal in the trim saw about 2:30 in the afternoon. The mill was said to have been connected to the city's low-pressure water system which was inadequate to reach the flames. The blaze quickly spread and in a short time the entire mill destroyed at an estimated loss of $75,000 to $100,000. The capacity of the entire mill was 60,000 feet daily and a large amount of the cut lumber was consumed by fire.

"The Tillamook Fire Department's ladder truck responded to a call, but found its equipment was handicapped by lack of water pressure. City Mayor Smith*, and Fire Chief Coats authorized the city's pumper to go to the scene and accomplished effective work after damming a creek from which water was pumped. The entire force of the Tillamook Department fought the fire for over four hours. The Whitney company's mills at Garbaldi shut down in order to release their men to aid Bay City.

The rest of the story

History of Bay City
by Peter B. Smith, with the assistance of John Sollman

When headlines in the February 1913 Bay City Examiner announced, “Bay City Cannery Closed Indefinitely,” locals were not surprised.The railroad had been running through town for two years. The docks were built, Bay City real estate sales were booming, and the mill and at least two canneries were running around the clock when local fishermen went on strike.

Strikes between fishermen and processors were not new. The first battles with Northwest Coastal fish processors began in the 1880s on the Astoria docks, and have never stopped. As recently as 2005, price disputes delayed the crab season for a month. . .

Click here for more back History. . .

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Earthquake Survival

By Don Reynolds -- Bay City Fire Chief
There are two things everyone needs to understand about earthquake and tsunami survival:

  • You will be on your own for most of the survival period; and
  • you should know what to do if you are caught in either of these life threatening situations.

Your fire department will give you information to help you to survive. The first installment, Earthquake Survival, is based on a talk by Doug Copp, Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager for American Rescue Team International, the world's most experienced rescue team. Doug has been inside 875 collapsed buildings in 60 countries and knows of what he speaks. Doug's ten tips, summarized below, could save your life.


  1. People who "duck and cover," or get under objects like beds, desks or cars are generally crushed to death.
  2. Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position, a natural survival instinct. You should too. Get next to a sofa or some large, bulky object which will compress slightly but leave a void next to it where you can survive.

More . . .


The Slug's Eye View

by Peter B. Smith, (additions by John Sollman)
The Mothers' Club 1948
In the top drawer of a file cabinet in the Tillamook Library, in the "Bay City" rubric, one may find an early record of the Bay City Mothers' Club. The sheets are tattered and hard to read, but worth the effort.

In 1948 a constitution was written and the club began raising funds for various civic projects. In 1955 the club began discussing the park as a project and approached the Bay City Boosters Club which, happily, voted to turn over their interest in the park to the Mothers, helping out whenever possible.

In July 1955, the Mothers put on a dance, with proceeds dedicated to park upgrades. A work party cleared brush and planted donated grass seed, which quickly sprouted. The restroom was restored to working order, whether it was an outhouse or a more sturdy structure with plumbing was not stated. (The original facility, according Betsy Griffin, was a "two-holer" outhouse at the far end of the ball field.)

Playground equipment started with a donated backyard children's swing set, and evolved from there. The City Council voted to provide a drinking fountain, sand box, teeter totter, and rings, with local stonemason Al Griffin building the drinking fountain and a barbecue as well, from which the steel grate was later stolen. (Griffin would serve as the town's mayor for many years, and after he died in office in 1998. The park was named in his honor.)


Law and Order and Public Services in Old Bay City
by John R. Sollman

Herbert "Hub" Miller, in his book, "Adventures of an Oregon Country Boy," describes a society where murders were rare, most thefts were petty, and domestic spats always got more coverage in the "Headlight-Herald." Most of the action was in white-collar crime --- people getting swindled out of their money through blue-sky investment scams.

Bay City once had a town marshal named Longcore, who threw people in the town jail for fighting, or being drunk and disorderly. After sobering up following a night in the city jail, the now-chastened inebriate would be released after paying a hefty fine of about $2 and promising to lay off the sauce. But rarely were those promises kept for long --- sometimes no longer than 10 or 12 hours. That hefty $2 fine may seem trivial today, but it was a day's wages then.

The rest of the story

The Bay City United Methodist Church
by John R. Sollman

Bay City's defining feature is the Bay City United Methodist Church, situated at the corner of 5th and D Streets. The church's origins go all the way back to the 1860s.

Lucy E. Doughty writes in her history of the Bay, or Kilchis, Church that when her family "arrived in Idaville or Bay District" in September 1870, they found that there was already an established church. It was called the "Bay Preaching Place," and met in the Kilchis River School House near the bay shore. (The Idaville area was once known as Jawbone.)

In those days, the bay shore was not where it is now. In fact, the mill where the Morning Star and other boats were built is located on the present-day Pioneer Museum property south of Bay City's Goose Point area, nowhere near today's bay shore. But that is another story.

Doughty writes as follows in "Tillamook History":

"There were only eight white families on the whole bay shore: the Vaughns and Aldermans on the little 'prairie' or open land reaching back from Idaville, Mr. and Mrs. Coleman on the tideland nearby, the Davidsons at the mouth of the Wilson River, the Hiram Smith and Hiram Terwilliger homes at the present site of Bay City, the Elmers across the bay on what is now the Beals place, and the Bayleys at Garibaldi; besides these, Webley Hauxhurst lived on the Sandspit that is now Bay Ocean."

More . . .

The Bay City/Tillamook newspaper wars of 1891-‘93
By Peter B. Smith

BAY CITY Oct. 10, 2009 — On June 8, 1888, with word of a town being platted to the North at Obet Thomas’ Landing by timber cruiser Winfield Scott Cone, Tillamook businessmen started a staunchly Republican propaganda organ called the Tillamook Headlight.

Cone dubbed his town Bay City after his home town in Michigan. Backed by Salem businessmen, Bay City was deemed a threat to Tillamook politicians and real estate speculators, whose fortunes depended on Tillamook’s remaining the center of county commerce.
That year, Cone and C.E. Wilson purchased 52 acres of land from Washington and Martha Jacoby, which the Jacobys had purchased from Martha’s uncle, John Monroe. He, in turn, had inherited it from an earlier settler, Obet S. Thomas, in 1882. More. . .

Bay City Art Center

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John Sollman at the Grapevine

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
by John R. Sollman

Though the Lewis and Clark expedition is highly touted in many history books as the first crossing of the North American continent by white men, they were certainly not the first. The Hudson's Bay Company was well-entrenched in Canada, and the Northwest was a favorite source of furs and pelts for the French trappers of that era.

It is even rumored that Sir Francis Drake might have visited the Pacific Northwest in the Golden Hind two centuries earlier, and that Tillamook Bay was actually the Drake's Bay of legend. The tall, straight firs of the Pacific Northwest were highly prized as masts for English men of war. All said, the Indians of western Oregon and Washington were well-acquainted with white men long before Lewis and Clark.

Joseph L. Meek had been raised in Virginia and was well educated. But the lust for adventure, to be part of something new, drove him to St. Louis, Missouri, in the fall of 1828, at the tender age of 18 years. He applied to trader William Sublette for a job as a trapper with his trading company. After some soul searching, Sublette took the lad on, and in March 1829 Joe Meek became one of 54 trappers en route to the Rocky Mountains.

The rest of the story

Dr. William C. Hawk and The Tillamook Bay Hospital
by John R. Sollman

Dr. William Calvin Hawk received his medical degree from Rush Medical College in Illinois and married Emma McLain about 1870. The couple traveled around the country, first in the South, and then westward. In each location, he would hang out his shingle, and she would open up a millinery shop. She also taught the local ladies how to make their own stunning bonnets. According to a piece in "Tillamook, Lest We Forget" by the Hawks' grandson, Herbert "Hub" Miller, Dr. Hawk was in Tombstone the day of the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral. Dr. Hawk and his family finally settled in Jefferson, near Salem, and opened a practice there.

But the Westward urge was strong in him, and in 1905 he traveled to Tillamook County to see whether there would be any prospect for him to establish his practice there. He soon acquired property in Bay City and returned to Jefferson to close out his practice and move his extended family to Bay City.

The rest of the story


The Rise and Fall of the "San Francisco of the North"
by John R. Sollman

When the City of Bay City was preparing to incorporate for the second time in 1910, the region was well along in its transition from the pioneer days to the modernity of the 20th century. Greed was truly alive in well in those days of blue-sky speculation on everything from dairy animals to logging to real estate development to railroad building.

The area which was to become Bay City had the advantage of a large, reasonably deep bay protected from ocean storms by a sand spit some four miles west across the bay. When Captain Gray first transited the bar in the sloop, Lady Washington, to enter the bay in the late 1700s, he had 36 feet beneath the ship's keel at low tide. (There continues to be speculation whether Tillamook Bay was actually the Drake's Bay described in the ship's logs of Sir Francis Drake some 200 years earlier.)

A mill and shipyard had been established south of Bay City's Goose Point area where the "Morning Star" and several other vessels were constructed. The channels, in those days, were sufficiently deep to permit ocean-going vessels to transit the bay without danger of grounding. The Bay City area provided good docking and moorage potential, and a pier was constructed to facilitate movement by sea of Tillamook products, such as cheese, butter and timber, to consumers in Portland and the Willamette Valley.

The rest of the story



Surviving the Big One
By John Sollman

BAY CITY Jan. 15, 2010 —Mayor Shaena Peterson held a Town Hall meeting last December to urge Bay City residents to make preparations to survive a disaster. We've seen many major storms that produce landslides in the mountains and cut the Coast off from the Valley for from several days to several weeks. The December 2007 storm was such a disaster --- some of us would liken it to a major disaster --- but it pales in comparison to a major subduction quake offshore followed by a tsunami: the so-called "Big One."

More . . .


And remember, you got it from the Grapevine. . .


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