Posts Tagged ‘earthquakes’

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I was home alone that night; my children were with their father. That was the worst I have experience. I remember the initial jolt that woke me then there was a rocking motion followed by the earth just rolling for what seemed like an eternity, then another jolt. I knew it was a bad one because of the intensity and the length of the quake. We had previously experienced a 5.7 (Whittier Narrows) but this one was so much more severe. I could hear branches breaking on trees outside, things falling off of shelves and glass breaking and I couldn’t stand straight to walk (because of the quake’s motion and several almost immediate aftershocks). I estimated it was at least a 6.2.

My first thought was for my kids’ safety. I tried calling to see if they were okay but the phone lines were down. There was no electricity. It was still pitch black out in the night. I felt around for my keys and jumped in the car and drove to my ex-husband’s apartment just as they were getting in the car to leave because they had no power and their water heater had ruptured and the apartment was flooding. At least they were safe. My son came with me but the girls were already in their dad’s car so they stayed with him. We tried to drive around to find some place open to sit and watch coverage of the earthquake but all businesses were closed and there was no power for a long distance. We finally found a fast food place where we sat having breakfast and trying to get information about the earthquake. It was hours before the power was restored to our house and before the news started to come in of all of the devastation the Northridge quake had caused. Aftershocks continued throughout the day and the following weeks. The beginning of each aftershock brought on another rush of adrenaline until we all realized that it was an aftershock and not its own earthquake.

Although having lived in California all of my life, that early morning earthquake was the worst one I had ever experienced. It was the Northridge quake of 1994. It struck on a holiday weekend, in the wee hours of the morning (4:30 am), waking everyone up for more than 220 mile radius (felt very strongly in Las Vegas 220 miles from the epicenter). That was the worst I have experienced. It was a killer earthquake, claiming the lives of 58 people and responsible for over sixteen thousand injuries. It also left an estimated 80-120,000 people homeless due to damage to their homes and/or apartments.

Earthquakes are probably the scariest of natural disasters, at least to me, because they come with no warning and no idea of how severe it will be. They could tiny ones that no one feels or in the mid range where people are aware of the shaking or the jolt but they laugh it off (at least in California). Those are usually maybe 3.8 to 4.3. Then there are the one that everyone is aware of and the ones that cause tremendous devastation. You don’t want to be in one of those. Trust me.

I now live in Portland, Oregon and in the 7 years I’ve been here, I have yet to feel an earthquake. We have them but they are so small that I haven’t felt one.

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It was a Saturday night in December. I was about four years old. I wasn’t in kindergarten yet so I know I was no older than four. All of us, my brothers and sisters and parents, were sitting in the living room watching Godzilla. The lights were off in the room and we were scared. Godzilla was walking through the streets of Tokyo, destroying everything in sight. On TV, the ground was shaking. People were screaming.

Then, I realized that everything was shaking in our house. I looked up above onto the ceiling and realized that the light fixture was swinging from side to side. Just then, my mother realized it too and she screamed for us to go outside. We were having an earthquake!

Growing up in California, I grew up used to earthquakes. We have them all the time. After some time, you get to the point where you know the difference between a 3.0 and a 4.0 and if you really have one, you know when something is over 5.0. When we had the Whittier Narrows earthquake in southern California, I knew it had to be at least a 5.8 but bet it had been over 6.0. When all was said and done, it was reported as a 6.0 and eventually downgraded to a 5.9.

Then came the fateful morning of January 17, 1994. We were all awakened at 4:30 in the morning by the 6.7 magnitude earthquake. No one slept through that. At the time, I lived about 25 miles from the epicenter. That was the scariest natural disaster moment I have been through, even for a California girl, used to earthquakes. When all was said and done, over 50 people had died as a result of the earthquake and over 1200 were injured. Freeways and overpasses were damaged and closed to traffic until they could be repaired. In some instances, that took months.

Some of us are used to the quakes and have learned to live with them. They are not predictable, as are some storms. They just hit when they do. The best we can do is to have our supplies in order and be as prepared as we possibly can.

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