Shake (Quake!)

12-05-2014-earthquake-yorba-lindaThis morning at 5:06, the house began to shake.   Our impressive collection of tchotchkes rattled on their shelves and tables.  The walls creaked.  My wife, Muri, and I sat up in bed, ready to duck and cover.    As 48 year residents of Southern California, when we first feel an earthquake we wonder: is this is the worst it will get or will the shaking increase in intensity and become a major event?  This one was over before we could even get out of bed.  It felt as if someone had momentarily touched our house with a huge vibrator, but it did no damage except for freaking out my cat, Claude.   There were two little bumps, aftershocks, in the next half hour.

Living in California, earthquakes are a fact of life, so much so that many home owners carry earthquake insurance to cover damage not covered by a regular homeowners policy.   Like my cat, I was unnerved the first few times the floor below me started dancing but after a while, we ignored everything but the bigger ones.   According to the US Geological Survey, there are approximately 10,000 quakes a year in the Socal area, most too small to be felt.   Only 15-20smq are greater than magnitude 4.  The 6.6 magnitude Sylmar Quake which happened only months before we moved here caused over $500 million in property damage and 65 deaths.  For reference, a magnitude 6.6 quake is 1000 times worse than a magnitude 3.6 because the Richter scale is logarithmic.  There have been seventeen major quakes with a magnitude of 6.6 or greater since we moved here in 1971, fortunately none close enough to cause major damage to our home.

I remember actually being able to see the floor roll during the 1989 World Series Earthquake (so-called because it disrupted a World Series game) which lasted for 15 seconds and when I arrived at work the next day, the ceiling in the computer room had collapsed.   In 1992, the night of the Landers Earthquake (magnitude 7.3), my wife and I were in a hotel near the beach when we were wakened by the shaking.  We were on the first floor near the pool and when we looked outside, the water was violently sloshing back and forth in the pool, a phenomenon known as seiche (pronounced SAYSH).   When we went down to the lobby in the morning, an entire wedding group from the midwest staying on the tenth floor of the hotel had spent the rest of the night on the lobby sofas.   The shaking is always worse on the higher floors, you see.

So, here I sit, exhausted because Claude was too agitated to let me go back to sleep.   What can a tired old(er) guy do on the morning after?   Well, he can check the US Geological Survey site find the magnitude of the quake (3.6), Clipboard01where it was centered (less than a mile from our house) and at what depth it occurred (4.6 km).   And he can go to the Did You Feel It page where citizens can enter their location and answer some questions about how the quake felt, resulting an a map that shows what people experienced and the extent of damage.    As a scientifically inclined techie, he can submit his own report  and then write a post about the experience.   And he can say a little prayer of thanks that we have been earthquake lucky all these years (knocking firmly on his wooden desk).   And then, it’s nap time.

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One Comment on “Shake (Quake!)”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    One of the emotions I remember clearly when we left SoCal and moved “back east” after 22 glorious years was “Well, we avoided the big one.”

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