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Seismic Expert Urges Safer Barrel-Stacking Method

on 11/09/14 at 10:33 am


wineA forklift operator at Wild Horse Winery near Paso Robles was maneuvering between barrel rows in the wine cellar when suddenly the ground started to shake. The 18-foot-high stacks swayed above her and then collapsed, burying her in an avalanche of 600-pound barrels. It took rescuers over an hour to reach her, after carefully draining and removing barrels one by one.

The woman escaped the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake with only a broken rib. And the Paso Robles wine industry escaped without a single fatality despite numerous barrel collapses at area wineries during the Magnitude 6.6 quake. They got lucky—as did wineries near the Magnitude 6.0 South Napa Earthquake last month, where wine was lost but where timing probably saved lives.

“Earthquakes that happen in the middle of the night are the best kind, when people are all snuggled up in their beds,” says seismic engineer and earthquake risk consultant Joshua Marrow. Had it occurred in the daytime when barrel rooms were filled with workers, he says, there would almost certainly have been fatalities—and had it struck a week later during the bustling harvest, things likely would have been even worse.