Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

I’ve lived on the West Coast of the U.S. my entire life. Most of my adult life I’ve lived in Southern California. As you might guess, I’ve experienced a fair number of earthquakes over the years, though I’ve never been very close to the epicenter of any of them.

The first one I remember experiencing was when I was pretty young, probably around five. That’s my best guess, anyway. I really only have a vague memory of the ground shaking. I lived in the Seattle area at the time. I’m pretty sure the quake I felt was the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 aka The Good Friday Earthquake. A 9.2 shaker, it’s considered the second largest earthquake on record and lasted, depending on the source you look at, from 3 minutes to 4.5 minutes. It caused the Space Needle to sway 1200 miles away. I can’t even imagine being near the epicenter of that one.

The two I remember most here in Southern California are the 6.7 Northridge quake in 1994 and the recent 7.1 quake near Ridgecrest. We were in escrow on two houses at the time of the Northridge quake (selling one and buying another). Even though we were far enough from the epicenter that no damage was done, both houses had to be reinspected before escrow closed.

The recent Ridgecrest 7.1 quake on July 5th was the longest quake I’ve ever experienced. We felt a great rolling motion for what seemed like a very long time (around 40 seconds I learned later). When you feel that kind of rolling motion you know a very large earthquake has occurred far away. (Ridgecrest is about 170 miles away from us.) That’s when you hope it hit a sparsely populated area and pray for those affected.

Most of the time, though, you’re not even sure you’re experiencing one. When an earthquake happens, a typical conversation goes something like this:

“Was that an earthquake?”
“Think so.”
“What do you think? 4.0?”
“Has to be at least a 5.”

The quake is usually over by then so we go back to what we were doing before the quake hit. After waiting a half hour or so, we head to the internet to find out its magnitude (got to see who was closest, after all) and where the epicenter was.

I know, I know. Seems a bit flippant, but that’s how some of us deal with the possibility of quakes in earthquake country.

The shaking tends to be a lot lighter where we live, though I do realize that some day a large quake might hit on a fault closer to us. Fingers crossed that never happens. But even with all that shaking going on, I’d still rather live in earthquake country than somewhere hurricanes and tornados are common. Those scare me far more than an earthquake.


Thomas Kies said...

I don't know, Sybil, we know when a hurricane is coming and can plan ahead. Earthquakes seem so darned random. Glad you're safe and sound.

Sybil Johnson said...

Yeah, I can see that about hurricanes. You can plan ahead. Maybe it's just because I've lived with the possibility of earthquakes for so long I've gotten used to it. But, earthquakes are fairly rare and hurricanes and tornados are decidedly not rare.

Aline Templeton said...

I was once in an earthquake when we lived in Shropshire but it was a bit different. There was a headline in the local paper about a cup that had fallen off a shelf.

Sybil Johnson said...

A headline huh? Didn't know there were earthquakes in that area.