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Japan earthquake experience retold by California woman

Japan's Sendai Airport is surrounded by waters in after a ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded
Japan's Sendai Airport is surrounded by waters in after a ferocious tsunami spawned by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded Associated Press

At 10:30 p.m. Pacific time, with her husband yelling to her about a massive earthquake that had just hit Japan, Shirley Menasco bolted for the telephone.

Her daughter-in-law, Jessica, who lives on Yokota Air Base near Tokyo with Menasco's son, Jeffrey, and their two children, answered on the third ring.

"She said, 'We're OK, we're OK,'" said Menasco, a real estate saleswoman from Elk Grove.

Japan was hit by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday afternoon, which shook buildings in Tokyo and caused a 13-foot tsunami that ravaged communities near the quake's epicenter, according to media reports. The first earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time.

"She felt the quake and thought, "It's going to let up," and it didn't," Menasco said, recounting the phone call with her daughter-in-law. "So she ran upstairs, grabbed our 5-month-old granddaughter who was asleep. She was trying to maneuver through the rolling to get to our 2-year-old granddaughter's bedroom. She picked her up, sat down on the floor in the doorway of our granddaughter's bedroom and just held on for dear life to the children, bracing herself."

Jessica Menasco, 36, said the first round of violent shaking lasted three minutes, Shirley Menasco said. Jeffrey Menasco, 39, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and has been stationed for about 11 months at Yokota Base in the city of Fussa, northwest of Tokyo. Shirley Menasco said she has not been able to reach her son at work.

An aftershock of magnitude 7.4 hit about 30 minutes after the first earthquake, one of five major aftershocks, according to media reports.

"Once (Jessica) got outside they felt the second quake and she said it was a super shaker," Shirley Menasco said. "She said she was so dizzy she could hardly hold the children."

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