Monday, December 03, 2018

The fault, dear Brutus...

...is not in our stars, but in our very earth. Right here, incredibly close by. Last Thursday I was having a lovely conversation with my older brother Marc, the one who lives in Virginia on 80 acres grows his own veggies and raises his own beef. We were talking about something, probably politics when I said something about expecting an earthquake. Actually what I think I said was more like, "You know it's been quite a while since there's been a big earthquake. It's been too long. I wait for it. I think about it at least once day and a whole lot more." I'm always waiting.

So, you probably all know what happened the very next day. Yes, a big earthquake hit Anchorage, Alaska. No, we didn't feel it here at all, not in the visceral sense, but I got a good jolt thinking about it. When I was talking to Marc I was telling him how close we live to the San Andreas fault. We're not directly on it, but that faultline ends at Cape Mendocino which is about 20 miles south of us. For a fault, those 20 miles are irrelevant. When San Andreas shakes we're going to feel it. I also told him that I think about the Cascadia Subduction zone. I said it was off the coast of Washington and that it could cause a huge amount of damage here if it shifted.
Because I like to look at maps, I googled around to see one of the subduction zone. Oh wow. I was wrong. That bit of faultline actually extends all the way to... Cape Mendocino. Uh-oh. We are right on that one. It was a surprising bit of information to see that the San Andreas northern most edge is right on the Cascadia zone's southern most edge. That's where we live.

So, yes, I think about earthquakes. Interestingly, I'm not afraid. I participated in the most recent state earthquake preparedness test. At a certain time on a certain day, we were asked to find the safest location to get through a big quake. We used to stand in doorways, but nowadays we're told to hide under a table, away from windows, hold on to the legs of the table, protect your head and wait it out. Roger did not participate, but he did get a kick out of watching me under the table holding on for dear life for a long make-believe shaking minute!

Even though we know it could happen at any time, we don't have an earthquake preparedness kit filled with food or essential items. If one actually hit, we'd be gobsmacked in the moment. I do know where we'd hide, what happens after that I have no idea.

All of this makes me wonder if there is anything in your neck of the woods that you prepare for like this?

On Saturday Marc called me. He said, "Wow Rob, you predicted that one. Well done!"

36 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I'd like to live in an earthquake zone and always wonder why so many people do. Nothing like that here, I'm glad to say. We had a faint earthquake once that caused my alarm clock to fall off the bedside table, we get an occasional mini-tornado that cause little damage and sometimes a tired, worn-out hurricane limps up from the Caribbean and blows a few tiles off the roof somewhere. All in all it's comfortingly boring around here. However its always worth remembering that there was a 4.6 magnitude quake near here in 1884 which caused considerable damage, but that was the biggest quake to hit England since 1580.

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    1. John-- I think I would like "comfortably boring." Although having been in two large earthquakes, I admit to finding them pretty wildly exhilarating. Still, I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my days not worrying about when the next one is going hit.

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  2. I've lived in Florida, where every summer there were hurricanes coming somewhere or another...and other parts of SE US...so that's the pulse I'm used to. I couldn't live where earthquakes occur regularly...there's no warning! I'd be anxious all the time. Now I'm in Appalachia, and feel relatively safe! Good for your discernment about that one coming. Hope your home is nice and safe, and I'm glad you have some of the plan worked out.

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    1. Barbara-- That is the weird and unsettling part of earthquakes, no warning. Just WOW and everything is shaking. Glad you are in a safe place.

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  3. Honestly, the fear of "The Big One" was what made me leave the SF bay area in 1970. Ridiculous in retrospect.

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    1. Colette-- When my family first moved to California in June 1970, we didn't even consider earthquakes. Then, seven months later... the Sylmar quake shook us awake a 6:00 in the morning. Roger and I were in the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, and it was quite an experience. I understand the fear.

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  5. Although I hesitated to mention it to anyone until you told your story, an hour and 15 minutes before the earthquake in Anchorage, I was driving down the hill to meet with some friends on what was a peaceful morning here. Suddenly I had a startling vision of a major earthquake. I saw the road ahead of me buckling and the houses cracking apart and trees swaying. For some reason, the next thought was overwhelming concern for a young woman I know who suffers from anorexia. The effect on my mind was so startling that I drove a block past the street I meant to turn on before realizing where I was.

    Reading what you wrote, I am reminded exactly where I was and where we are near the Cascadian Subduction zone, a sublime and beautiful and vulnerable place.

    Born and raised in California, I remember frequent minor earthquakes, especially while out playing at recess in elementary school. I remember being afraid to move from the San Joaquin Valley to the S.F. peninsula when I was 7 years old because by then I had heard about the devastation of the earthquake in 1906. I also remember saying to someone that I would never leave the S.F. peninsula because I would rather die in an earthquake than live somewhere else. That was in the early 1970s. I ended up leaving California in 1974 for Massachusetts but always intended to return to earthquake country. Little did I know when I settled in the northwest corner of Washington State that I was once again in earthquake country. There is no place I would rather live and die.

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    1. am-- That is quite a story. I love it. I wonder what made you have that premonition like that. So interesting. I love what you say about living in earthquake country. It could be my new mantra, "There is no place I would rather live and die." Yes, thank you for that.

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  6. Never felt an earthquake and don't want to though Arkansas has the New Madrid Fault line which is capable of the big one. I am close enough.
    Didn't know that about tables now, thanks. Also, it wouldn't hurt to get that emergency kit ready. I have mine for the tornadoes we are subject to.
    There is no where totally safe that I know of.

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    1. Patti-- I'm going to have to do some research on the New Madrid Fault. I hadn't heard of that one. We really should get a our emergency kit ready. I think we've been saying that for 30 years! Truly, there is nowhere totally safe.

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  7. Do get your kit, Seriously. What about tsunami warnings?

    I refused to move to Japan when we were offered great jobs in Tokyo after I happened to watch a documentary about earthquakes there. A year later, we had moved to Germany and have lived through two earthquakes here - minor but it just goes to show. I didn't even think we could be in an eartquake zone here in the benign Rhine valley, but we are.

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    1. Sabine-- Oh yes, there is a tsunami warning system here. They do a practice siren sound for us once a year. We live just outside the tsunami zone, but I'm never sure tsunamis can read the signs. It's a surprise to know that there are earthquakes there in the Rhine Valley. Our beautiful planet really is a wild thing sometimes.

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  8. We've had earthquakes here in New Jersey... technically. Most of the ones I have felt have been more like a big truck rumbling down the road. In fact, we've actually said that. "Did you feel that big truck just go down the road?" We did have one earthquake though back in 2011. Actually the epicenter was in Delaware, but we felt it here. It was August, and my kids and I were spending the week at the Jersey shore. We were grocery shopping, and all of a sudden, bottles of shampoo started falling off the shelves. I looked at my daughter, and she just said, "I didn't do it." The out of nowhere, the shelves started wobbling, and the ground felt unsteady. It couldn't have been more than 10 or 15 seconds, but it was the weirdest thing I had ever felt.

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    1. Sharon-- Wow, you totally surprised me with this earthquake in New Jersey info. I had no idea. I'm beginning to think that earth has a lot of surprises for us. Lovely to see you here, hope all is well for you.

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  9. When we built our retirement home, my husband asked our insurance rep if many people here purchase earthquake insurance. He answered that he sold some now and then, "mostly to the geology professors at Clemson University." A little research let us know we are in fact living in the Brevard Fault zone. And yes, we bought the insurance.

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    1. NCmountainwoman-- I have to say the comments here have definitely enlightened me. We're all in some ways in the vicinity of a fault line. I love knowing this.

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  10. I remember once, at some beach town in Mexico, taking a rest in the afternoon on my bed, which rested atop a concrete pillar. (Not high. I'm not some kind of freak.) And I felt a slight move sideways. A few seconds later I said to SWMBO, "Hey, did you feel that? This pillar shouldn't move. I think there was a mild earthquake." The next day we learned that there had been one offshore. Now I live in a safe(?) area of Arizona and only have to worry about summer heat and as long as the a.c. holds on, not even that.

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    1. Catalyst-- The surprise of an earthquake is unforgettable. I also remember the relentless heat of a summer I spent in Phoenix. Air conditioning is essential.

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  11. We've had a few minor earthquakes around here, but I've never felt them. For the one that everyone talked about and made its way onto the front page of the local paper with tales of shelves dumping people's breakables onto the floor, and about which all my coworkers had stories of their own, I had been walking in the woods in Hawley, which is on the east slope of the Berkshires, so well out of the valley. I didn't feel a thing. You'd think that with my feet walking on the honest earth, I'd have felt it. It didn't hit there. But even in my mother's house in the valley, I've never felt the earthquakes that people lower in the valley always seem to feel.
    With the changes in climate, the more likely threats we have are microbursts (they can be awful!) and tornadoes, which used to be much more rare. My plan? None. My Hawley house is so small, there is no "safe" inner room to shelter in and it has no basement. the best I can do is hide in the downstairs bathroom, which has no window.
    Here's a link to an accessible (i.e. I can understand it) earthquake hazard map.
    https://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/learn/images/2014hazmap-induced-lg.gif

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    1. CCorax-- I've read a lot of accounts where people who have been outside don't feel the quake. Pretty interesting. It is so interesting to think about the planning we have to do for the possible disasters that may or may not be heading our way. Thank you for that link. Wow, that's quite a map. Yikes!

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  12. Well, when I lived in Florida, hurricane preparedness was a constant concern. But we didn't have to stand in doorways or crouch under tables! We don't have anything similar in England, I'm happy to say. It makes sense that you'd be concerned about earthquakes in Alaska -- didn't that big '64 quake slam Northern California with tsunamis?

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    1. Steve-- Oh you remind me of the only hurricane I was in when I was growing up in NJ. It was big enough that we were let out of school and neighbors came to pick us up. We sure do a lot of planning for future disasters, don't we. The Alaska quake of '64 was a 9.2 quake that shook for 5 minutes. That's unimaginable. The Loma Prieta quake was a 6.9 and shook for 15 seconds. There was tsunami after the Alaska quake of '64, and it hit Crescent City about 75 miles north of us. Oy.

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  13. Not a place to live as far as I can see, if it's not wild fires it's earth quakes. Mind you we get them here as well only not as bad

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    1. Bill-- When I think about the population of southern California and the possibilities of earthquakes and fires there, I think it's not really livable as well. Up here on the north coast, it just seems safer. Of course if there's a major earthquake and the roads are gone, we're really in trouble.

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  14. I was watching one of those home-buying shows on TV the other night and they showed a very reasonably-priced home right on the beach somewhere in Oregon or Washington. My first thought was, beautiful, but no way. They have tsunamis there, not often, but it only takes one.

    We have infrequent and mild earthquakes here in the mid-plate area where we live. One was strong enough that it woke me up, and I could distinctly feel the P and S waves as they hit. It was interesting and somewhat disorienting. Our biggest danger here is straight-line winds from strong thunderstorms. Even though Huntsville, Al, which has some severe tornados, is only about 100 miles away, we almost never get much of a tornado here. The odd hurricane remnant comes through and dumps a lot of rain and knocks down some trees. There is an occasional wild fire that *usually* doesn't amount to much. So I guess on balance we are fairly safe from natural disasters here. Of course that's small consolation if a tree limb falls on your head.

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    1. Mark-- It's true, it only takes one tsunami to ruin the rest of the day! I think if the house is high enough on a mountain above the ocean, you could have a beautiful view and be spared. Be careful of those tree limbs!

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  15. Where I grew up, in Jamaica, we had earthquakes fairly regularly, little ones. And we were told to stand in doorways, something I never ever understood, not even when I was five, because it's so clear that a skinny door frame wont protect you is the roof caves in. A table now, well, then you might have a chance. Here in NYC, we don't worry about earthquakes much. We worry about disgruntled people becoming violent. I worry even more now that my son is a first responder. No door frames for that. So I pray. Hugs.

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    1. 37paddington-- I have really learned a lot from this post about how and where earthquakes occur. I would have never guessed Jamaica, and yet it happens. There are faults everywhere. I worry about violence here too. We live in a such a sad time of guns and outrage. Hugs to you and your beautiful family.

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  16. I am afraid of wild fires and earth quakes. Dangerous.

    Have a great day

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    1. Phil-- I haven't heard that phrase in a long time. Thank you for reminding me.

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  18. Man, you DO live in a rather dicey zone for earthquakes! Good thing you're high enough (haha) to avoid tsunamis. We had that drill, too, though I did not participate. For YEARS after the Loma Prieta quake, I kept a kit bag and always filled up the car's gas tank when it got to half-full, as I was caught with practically no gas when the quake hit. I've abandoned all of that. The big thing I worry about is running out of insulin if the disaster zone is bad enough.

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    1. Tara-- Yes, Loma Prieta definitely was the wake up call for us. But as time passes, we get a little lazy about preparedness. Oy, running out of insulin.

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  19. I thought about earthquakes every hour I was in L.A. visiting my sister. I was there for a month. It had it's own life...one of exhaustion. It almost made my fear of flying seem like not a thing of concern. We prepare for tornadoes (or tornados) here. Living on the 2nd floor of an old apartment bldg. with no basement now. There is no plan in place. Just the hope that it never happens. Never ever ever ever. Stay safe Bums. I love you <3 <3

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    1. Jsk-- I think about earthquakes every time we're in southern CA. It scares me to think of being trapped there, with 10 million people and roads impassable. Somehow being here on the north coast feels less chaotic if a big one were to hit. I can't imagine what it might be like to know a tornado is on its way. You do get a warning, but still... oy. We love love love you too!

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