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Ridouts see New Zealand earthquake firsthand

By Staff | Mar 1, 2011

Travis Ridout, an Estherville Lincoln Central grad, and his wife, Carolyn, a British Columbia native, had something very unique to write about on their New Zealand sabbatical last week.

An earthquake.

The Ridouts and their two young children were staying in a home in Christchurch when the earthquake rocked the city a week ago Monday. The Ridouts, both on sabbatical leave from Washington State University in Pullman, evacuated to Mount Cook, known by natives as Aoraki, also on the south island, while utility workers scrambled to restore water and utilities. They were back in Christchurch again early this week.

The earthquake did throw a major monkey wrench into plans by Carla Ridout, Travis’ mother, to visit them. Carla was to leave Sunday for two weeks.

Travis, a WSU political science professor, is studying New Zealand political advertising on sabbatical while Carolyn, a home economics professor, is using her sabbatical leave to study the New Zealand wine industry.

“When we first heard about it, I was a little bit scared,” admitted Travis’ father Dennis.

Carolyn said they were in the house at the time of the quake. To date, 170 have been confirmed dead with 200 expected fatalities when the final count comes in. While the Ridouts found the aftershocks rather unsettling since it was the first quake either had been through, they said New Zealand emergency officials seem to have the situation under control.

The Ridouts are renting a house from a New Zealand Professor and had intended to remain until June.

“There were some doors that used to close before that don’t now,” Travis said. He also noted soil “liquefaction”.

“You’ve got these little volcanoes coming up in your backyard,” Travis said. He said roads are buckled throughout Christchurch.

New Zealanders’ reactions to the earthquake range from taking it in stride (New Zealand is considered in a high-risk earthquake zone on the Pacific Rim, after all) to a severe psychological blow. Travis said there was more damage in the Christchurch central business district. Another earthquake came last September.

While no tsunamis resulted, Travis said just 50 percent of Christchurch has its water back. Power was out 30 hours, with landslides in the hilly part of the city. Sewer pipes were broken throughout Christchurch. A 100-year-old cathedral was damaged beyond repair.

“Luckily, we’re not in the worst-hit part of the city,” Travis said.

Officials are keeping people away from the hardest-hit parts of the city for a month to six weeks.

“I think they’ll solve he contaminated water issue pretty quickly,” Travis said.

They aren’t going to let a little earthquake ruin their sabbatical, though.

The Ridouts plan to complete their visit through June.