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I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

When you live in Southern California—or anywhere in California, really—you live with the very real possibility that at any given time, at any moment, the earth is going to shake like Jello. There’s no warning. Most of the time you don’t think about it. Most of the time you don’t really need to think about it. And, to me, it’s safer (maybe that’s not the right word) than living in a hurricane zone or Tornado alley, where the disasters happen seasonally instead of occasionally, but that’s small consolation when one of these suckers hit.

About 45 minutes ago we had a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. (UPDATE: It was downgraded to a 5.4. But still…) Quakes never really bothered me because I grew up in California. But I gotta tell you, after living through the Northridge earthquake in 1994, they never cease to scare the living shit out of me. You never know if it’s going to be The Big One. It’s worse when it hits in the middle of night.

In 1994 I lived in Koreatown—before it was cool to live there—in a building built in 1926. It was an awesome place (1300 square feet for $600!) but I doubt it was up to code. The jolt was so hard that parts of the building’s facade fell off, and the top floor was condemned. (I was sooo glad I moved from the 7th to the 4th floors about 4 months before that.) It hit in the early morning when it was still dark. At the time I wore contacts and couldn’t find my glasses (they were knocked off my nightstand)—and consequently, couldn’t find any shoes— so, totally blind, I had to grope my way down four floors over glass and all kinds of debris. At some point everyone made their way back to their apartments to see the damage and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I was fairly lucky—a few overturned bookcases and some broken glasses.

For a few weeks the aftershocks were relentless—5.4, 5.8 and even a couple of 6.0s thrown in for good measure—in case we forgot what a bitch Mother Nature could be. I think I slept fully dressed (including shoes) for three months after that.

The one this morning wasn’t nearly as bad. It started out like a steady roll, slowed down and the building rocking and rolling for at least a minute (which in real time feels like 10). But if you’ve been through a substantial earthquake you never really lose that fear. You pause for a minute and brace yourself just in case.

Once you assess the situation (damage? no damage?), you wait. You wonder if that was a fore-shock to something much bigger, or if that’s it.

I’ve missed Kate Hutton, though!

UPDATE: “There is a 5 percent chance that today’s earthquake was a foreshock to a much larger quake that could occur in the next three days, according to the USGS.”

Time to pack up all the breakables…

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6 Responses

  1. Today, we are Shakin’ What Our Mommas Gave Us!

    I think “The Big One” has been drilled into our heads so long here that the start of every earthquake…not matter how inconsequential it turns out to be…creates that initial panicked moment of, “Ohgodthisisit!” And if you’ve been through something like ’94, well that just adds to the feeling!

    I didn’t like the “two-part” way today’s went. Because when the shaking stops for a second but then starts up again? That’s the moment you wonder if something serious is getting ready to happen.

    I still will take an earthquake over a tornado any day though. YEESH!

  2. It’s like being in one of those snow globes. Like someone picks it up to look at it and everything sort of swooshes around. Then you wait to see if they shake it like a motherfucker.

    (Sorry, earthquakes bring out my potty mouth!)

  3. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people live in places that have a pretty good chance of being totally destroyed by nature at any given moment. Trailer parks in Florida??? Prairie “floodlands”?? (and every year they’re suprised by severe flooding — go figure); the west coast?? Indonesia. One of my top 5 criteria for choosing a place to live is “free from natural disasters”. I’m a big chicken.

  4. I HAVE BEEN SINGING “I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE” NON-STOP FOR TWO DAYS NOW!!! I hope you are happy with yourself. 🙂

  5. Thank GAWD I’m not the only one.

  6. I am so glad you and Lesley are okay! I was definitely thinking about you both.

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