Nostradamus notwithstanding, California still is.
According to some interpretations of the writings of Nostradamus, a 16th century French astrologer, Tuesday was supposed to be the day of the Big One, the giant earthquake that would send California drifting out to sea.Thousands of people have called special Nostradamus hotlines in an attempt to have counselors quell their quake fears, and not a few Angelinos actually left town.
The source of much of the fuss over Nostradamus and earthquakes was a previously obscure 1981 movie called "Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow" that was narrated by the late Orson Welles, who intoned with great solemnity that Nostradamus predicted such cataclysmic events as the Russian Revolution, the European flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 and World War II.
"The Man Who Saw Tomorrow," recently one of the hottest items at Los Angeles video rental stores, portrays Nostradamus as a gifted visionary who predicted a major earthquake in Los Angeles in May 1988. Little note seems to have been taken of the fact that Los Angeles was not founded until 200 years after Nostradamus's prediction.
According to the film, Nostradamus wrote: "The great earthquake shall be in the month of May; Saturn, Capricorn, Jupiter, Mercury in Taurus; Venus, also Cancer, Mars in zero."
Nostradamus believed the planetary alignment would cause an earthquake in "The New City," which some astrologers interpreted as either Los Angeles or San Francisco - mostly Los Angeles.
But astronomers point out that in May the planets will not be in the position the film contends will fulfill the prophecy. Even if they were, they would have no effect on earthquakes, scientists said.
Nostradamus rarely used dates, basing the time of most of his predictions on planetary alignments. The vagueness of Nostradamus's writings and the translations of the couplets in which he issued his predictions have led other astrologers and psychics to choose various days in May for the quake.
"At first I heard it was May 5, then May 8, then May 10," said Edward Velez, who works in downtown Los Angeles.
Like millions of Southern California residents, Velez was a bit edgy Tuesday, but went about his business as usual.
"I think it's something that's on everybody's mind," he said. "It's like the threat of nuclear war . . . . This morning I woke up wondering if a bookcase would fall on my head."
"To tell you the truth, I bought three gallons of water and a 12-pack of beer," said Jean Moore, who also works in downtown Los Angeles. "I've been a little wary."