I couldn’t help but be impressed by the magnitude of the earthquake

— Dan Quayle

Yesterday I lived through my first earthquake. Seriously – two years in California, living right next to a fault line, and I felt nothing. Well, once I did feel the car shake when we were in stand still traffic coming home from the farmer’s market, but it didn’t show up on usgs.gov as an earthquake – not even a sub 2.5. (Not that I kept checking for days or anything). Last night was different, though. Last night was not a truck.

When I started at Saint Babs, we had a few days of mandatory TA training fun-time. Part of this was a lab intro/safety course, also known as three hours (no really, I just went back and checked the schedule) of Bob Pizzi talking about earthquakes. Pizzi pointed at the back wall of the lab and said “There is a huge fault line right out there. When the ‘quake comes, it will hit that wall like a semi truck. You will have less than a second to get under the desk before the building comes down on you. You won’t even have time to say “earthquake”. You just yell QUAKE and get under there.” I had happily lived my life up to this point under the threat of nothing worse than a nor’easter or an errant hurricane. Both of those can be tracked for days on the internet, or, in the old days, the Weather Channel. Earthquakes were something that happened suddenly. There would be no warning. We were all going to die. I seriously considered getting under the desk preemptively, right then.

During an earthquake, the safest place is not near the earthquake.*

I was happy to trade earthquakes, wildfires, poisonous snakes and spiders, and sharks of California for the more mundane floods, bush-fires, poisonous snakes and spiders, and sharks of Australia. (Wait a minute…) Part of me was a little disappointed that I never got to experience an earthquake. I felt left out when my sister felt an earthquake in DC last year (which she realized was one only after her bosses were trying to decide if someone was blowing up the White House down the street or Planned Parenthood next door). It was supposed to be a rite of passage for California residents – right up there with almost failing the drivers test. Most of me was okay with having the ground stay where it was.

All of that changed just before 9PM last night. I heard a rumbling coming from outside of the window. A hurricane-force wind seemed to hit the southern window of the living room right before the floor started undulating. Then it happened again a few seconds later. Another blast to the wall and the ground continued to bob as the rumbling continues in the other direction. My face probably looked something like this guy’s:

It took about 20 minutes for the earthquake to show up on usgs.gov as a 5.2 magnitude about 120 km from Melbourne (real time updates my a**). Facebook had already confirmed its existence by then. The Australian site http://www.seis.com.au had it as a 5.5, and it seems to be reported everywhere today as a 5.3. Not too shabby. It probably hit the house on a diagonal, coming fromt he southeast, but since it had to travel through the entire house on the eastern side and only had to hit the wall in the room where I was sitting on the southern side, it seemed to have a north-south orientation. Thankfully only minor damage and no injuries were reported.

In the end, I survived my first earthquake. And it was kind of fun.

I think this same meme went around for Irene.



~ by Genevieve on June 20, 2012.

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