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Post-earthquake wrap-up - Baxil [bakh-HEEL'], n. My Sites [Tomorrowlands] [The TTU Wiki] [Photos]
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October 31st, 2007
04:12 am
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Post-earthquake wrap-up
I live in California, but I live out in the Sierra Nevada foothills, so I got to skip this evening's earthquake.* (The piddly local one. Also missed the giant one in the Pacific, though.)

Sounds like there was no damage (for a 5.6, I'm not surprised), but it did pop kadyg's earthquake cherry. Welcome to California, hon.

It's strange to say it, but my second scariest earthquake -- as a native Californian -- was actually up in Seattle. Back on February 28, 2001, I got woken up from a sound sleep by a fairly decent shaker. This being not-California, though, I simply couldn't process it as an earthquake; there was simply too much cognitive dissonance.

I ended up concluding that Mount Rainier had gone from "dormant" to "volcano," blown its top, and we were about to get pelted with giant falling stones and region-wide evacuation orders. It wasn't until I managed to stagger outside, half-dressed, that I finally accepted it as just a garden-variety temblor.

But the all-time winner for me was the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, the one that collapsed the Cypress Structure in the East Bay. I was 12 years old, and for some reason that probably seemed non-stupid at the time, I had joined my (small, private) junior high school's flag football team. We were in the middle of a game on an outdoor field in west Oakland when the quake hit.

One thing non-Bay Area natives should understand: As you get closer to the San Francisco Bay, by and large, you will be on land that has been filled in to expand human-habitable areas. If you're on land that was shore before the builders arrived, no problem -- you can sink foundations into some decent ground. If you're on land that started out as mud dumped into water ... one good shake, and the whole thing turns into Jello. (You can see this effect by looking at the map of "Oakland - North" from this page. Notice how the shaking intensity goes up by two orders of magnitude as you approach the water?)

So, the scene: A bunch of twelve-year-olds running around in a park near the waterfront in Oakland. We're across the street from a 12- to 15-story apartment complex. The quarterback calls for his snap. The two teams start charging each other.

Suddenly, from the deep distance, a low and ominous rumbling. The action stops.

And everyone notices a giant wave of earth -- the ground itself is surging, I shit you not, in a broad wave a foot or two high -- moving toward us from the southwest.

The wave hits the building across the street. Its entire front face -- glass doors leading out onto thin balconies -- shatters into a glittering cascade. Amid the percussion, a symphony of car alarms squeal, and screaming voices swell in chorus.

As one, every single player on the field looks up, horrified, then starts sprinting away from the falling glass to the far sideline.

None of us was injured. The building itself held. But the experience of fighting for footing on ground that was rising and sinking in swells, I'm afraid, permanently set my metric dividing "serious quake" from "eh, just another day in California."

* The linked news story quotes a man named Rod Foo.** As in the variable. I really want a metasyntactic name now.
** Assuming that this wasn't some quick-thinking programmer putting one over on a hurried reporter, anyway.

Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out - Eric Clapton

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:October 31st, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
For my first quake, I lived in Anderson, California that was the "big Oroville quake" that helped convince my Auburn-politician grandmother to stop supporting the dam there. My second one was in Blairsden, California, in Plumas County. My third and fourth were in South Australia. My fifth was in the bay area, finally. A bay area quake! That was the Morgan Hill quake of '84. (Then I think there was one on the Calaveras Fault that I felt in Berkeley, and then the Loma Prieta.)
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Date:October 31st, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
(whoops, was me)
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Date:October 31st, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
I'm still waiting for my first quake; I've been in the PNW since March of 2006. I've lived in tornado country, but never quake-prone places, and since I intend to stay here I should end up experiencing at least a few.
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Date:October 31st, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Loma Prieta was a good one. I remember poor great-grandmother Probert holding onto the counter with one hand (which had a knife in it) and a carrot in the other, wondering what had just happened.
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Date:October 31st, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
This is the biggest I've lived through since I was in the Seattle earthquake a few years ago. For all I know that one was bigger! I still haven't gotten used to it. It still feels so initially mundane as though I haven't yet wrapped my brain around the concept that the ground underneath me is moving.
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Date:October 31st, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
You were in Seattle for the Nisqually quake? ... How is it we never crossed paths until we both moved back down south?

(And, yes, that was much bigger - magnitude 6.8, the same range as Loma Prieta and over 10x as big as yesterday's. But IIRC, Seattle was further from the epicenter than SFO/Oakland was to Loma Prieta. And if you're in San Jose, you were practically right on top of yesterday's.)
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Date:October 31st, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC)
We did meet up while in Seattle, though. Initially we both showed up at a picnic with a batch of alt.fan.dragons people that I believe Breimh and Purrzah organized, in Golden Gardens park in Ballard. And, a year or so later I wound up doing a dragon in your sketchbook at Conifur.
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Date:October 31st, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
Wow. Your story beats mine all around the town. It was basically centered on that silly fish tank. (The neighbours' pool may have risen from its pit, too, I don't remember.)
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Date:October 31st, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
I remember I guess it was the Northridge quake hitting when I was in high school. One of the aftershocks caught me on the toilet; that was a weird experience. But not as good a story as yours.
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Date:November 2nd, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
*shudder* Earthquakes are scary. As a Michigander(I wish that was not the real term for one who lives in Michigan... it is, unfortunately), I don't have to worry about them - natural disasters here seem to come in the forms of flooding and occasional tornadoes. Which in my experience have only materialized as my parents talking about sump pumps and the sky turning strange colors as the wind picks up and the elementary school teachers take all us kids out into the halls to cower... nothing too bad, in hindsight.

That 1989(hey, I was born that year...)story was very visual. Yikes. I have heard about ground liquefying during a quake, but I didn't know why that would be so. It makes sense.

Well, I'm glad you missed it, anyway... Thanks for friending me, Baxil.
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