(Spoilers for last night’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale)

EARTHQUAKE DESTROYS CALIFORNIA TOWN

By Kelson Vibber, staff writer

A 5.9 earthquake struck the Central California town of Sunnydale Tuesday morning, rattling windows as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco and triggering a massive sinkhole which appears to have buried the entire town. In an amazing twist of luck, however, the death toll may turn out to be zero.

Emergency workers dispatched from neighboring communities have reported the scene is one of eerie silence – largely because many of the town’s residents had left over the past few weeks.

A rising crime wave over the last several weeks may actually have saved thousands of lives. An atmosphere of hysteria had descended on the town, causing many residents to pack up and leave. “It was just getting crazy,” resident Joe Sweden told reporters. “Gangs were killing people at night, there was an honest-to-God riot at the high school… We’ve lived here for years, but it just got to the point where it wasn’t safe anymore. My wife and I took all our vacation time and took the kids to visit my brother in Cleveland. Let me tell you, I’m sure glad we left when we did!”

Mr. Sweden’s story was repeated over and over. Reporters covering the exodus, which caused traffic jams for three days the likes of which the city had never seen, found Sunnydale to be a virtual ghost town just a few days ago.

Search-and-rescue helicopter teams have begun combing the wreckage searching for survivors – or casualties. At present, it is not known how many residents were still in town at the time of the earthquake, although the scope of the destruction does not paint a promising picture for anyone who remained in the area.

Geologists at the California Institute of Technology, who measured the temblor at 5.9 on the Richter scale, are still trying to pinpoint the fault along which the quake occurred, as well as the cause of the sinkhole. Very little groundwater is used in Sunnydale, making it unlikely to be the result of over-pumping. The most popular theory at the moment is that a previously unknown cave system may have lain in wait below the city. If this cave structure were damaged in the quake, it could well have caused the city to collapse into the space below.

City employees have cut short their vacations in order to begin tracking down Sunnydale residents. The task could take months, as the city’s records were all kept locally – and many of those records that are recovered are unlikely to yield out-of-town contact information.

Representatives of the University of California were “stunned” by the unprecedented loss of one of their campuses. “We’re still in shock,” a spokesman for the University said. “We’ve been here since 1960, and suddenly the entire school is gone.

“What are we going to do with the students? Now that’s the million-dollar question. We literally haven’t had time to think about it. We lost everything: classrooms, offices, equipment. The best part is that we think everyone got out okay. The worst part is that we have to start from scratch. Do we open Merced early? Do we try to spread the students and faculty around to the other campuses? We just don’t know yet.” A new UC campus is already under construction in the San Joaquin Valley, and is scheduled to open in 2004. The “other UCSD” was best known for its nationally-recognized psychology program.

Sunnydale was founded in in 1899 by businessman Richard Wilkins. In fact, three generations of Wilkinses served as mayor of Sunnydale over the course of the century. The founder’s grandson, Richard Wilkins III, was killed in a 1999 gas explosion that destroyed Sunnydale High School during graduation ceremonies. Despite the presence of a military base (Camp Brendon, one of many bases closed in the late 1990s) and light industry, the city remained primarily suburban to the end.

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