I suppose every locale has its share of natural disasters.  Here in North Orange County, we have wildfires and earthquakes.  The fire season is usually in the late summer, when the weather turns hot and the strong winds known as Santa Anas blow in off the deserts, fanning what might be small brush fires into monsters.   Just about every year, there are fires close enough that we can see or smell the smoke, and twice in the last few years, we’ve been evacuated.  Even though it is primarily a precaution, it is an unnerving experience.

Interestingly enough, it is commonly believed that hot, dry weather is also conducive to earthquakes.  This belief goes back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that earthquakes were caused by winds blowing into caves and crevices in the earth’s surface.   According to the US Geological Survey, there is no connection between weather and earthquakes, but if you were a visitor to to Socal this summer, you’d be hard to convince.   There have been multiple quakes of magnitude 4 northeast of Yorba Linda, only a few miles away from our house, including one Wednesday afternoon.  Did your Dad every hold you by both arms and give you one hard shake to be sure you were paying attention?  These short duration shakes feel as if someone (really big) did that to the house.  There is often an audible bang or thud, followed by the rattling of windows and things on tables.   There has been a swarm (the correct scientific term, by the way) of over 300 earthquakes near Brawley, East of San Diego in the last few days, including several of magnitude 5 plus that have done some damage, shifting mobile homes off their foundations and such.  You may know that the Richter scale used to describe the size of earthquakes is a log-10 logarithmic scale … a magnitude 5 quake produces 10 times the shaking of a magnitude 4.   In our forty years here in in California, we’ve experienced several significant earthquakes, fortunately far enough away that we didn’t have damages.  Some have rattled and rolled for ten or fifteen seconds and produced a rolling motion in the ground that we could actually see.  Once, we were staying in a hotel and looked out the window to see the water splashing out of the pool.  There was a wedding party, mostly from the Midwest, staying at the hotel on the upper floors … most of them spent the rest of the night sleeping in the lobby.  Experiencing your first earthquake is very unnerving.

I find it interesting how we become accustomed to nature’s tantrums in our own location and remain appalled by those elsewhere.  Whenever there are wildfires anywhere in Southern California, we get concerned calls from friends, probably because their local news makes it look as if the entire state is on fire.  People in the Midwest who think nothing of having tornado cellars say, I’d never live in California because of the says you should immediately Drop to your hands and knees, Cover yourself by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and Hold On to your shelter in case it shifts or moves around.  When the ground shook yesterday, I just sat there, waiting for it to stop as it usually does, then went to the US geological Survey website to see where and how big.  If I’m not too busy, I file a Did You Feel It report, telling where I am and answering some questions about the shaking and damage.  The USGS then assembles that into a Did You Feel It map, like this one for yesterday’s quake, which over 3000 people reported.    There was another magnitude 2.5 in the same location this morning that only 15 people reported.

I was telling someone about my cavalier reaction to earthquakes recently and they told me that I needed to get under cover immediately, before the shaking gets so bad that I can’t.  Particularly at my age, they said.  But it’s hard to overcome forty years of experience to the contrary.   And I don’t know which is a scarier thought … at my age … or the ground shaking so much I couldn’t get under my desk.

Have you ever felt an earthquake?

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2 Comments on “Shaky”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I am reading in reverse today. I think I am three days behind. I would never say that I wouldn’t live somewhere due to…earthquakes fires, floods or anything else. Midwesterner’s have tornadoes, usually a lot of them. We also, have the New Madrid fault and a lot of us have had some earthquakes as well. Ours tend to be mild but the alleged “big one will happen”. I wasn’t kidding when I said out four seasons are Biizzard, Flood, Drought and Tornado. Your area sounds nice, but I am all settled in for the next season which is due soon…Blizzard.

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