The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110534   Message #2322837
Posted By: Don Firth
22-Apr-08 - 03:25 PM
Thread Name: BS: you don't often get to see an earthquake
Subject: RE: BS: you don't often get to see an earthquake
The first earthquake I ever experienced was when I was about 13 years old. Approaching 7:30 on a Monday evening, Johnnie Coogan, Tommy Gregory, and I, along with Mikey, Johnnie's cocker spaniel, were on our way to a nearby school for the regular Monday meeting of Boy Scout troop 150. Tommy and I had just met Johnnie in front of his house and were on our way to the school when Mikey went nuts. He alternated between running back and forth and barking and sort of cowering on the ground and whining. We stopped and tried to figure out what was wrong with Mikey. Just then, the ground started to shake. It lasted for maybe ten or twelve seconds. I don't recall the magnitude of the quake and I don't recall that it did all that much damage, but since it was my first, it was an experience. Obviously Mikey knew about it before we kids did!

I've rocked and rolled through a number of other quakes, a couple of which were real doozies, and slept through at least one. But the Nisqually quake at 10:54 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28, 2001, magnitude 6.8, really got my attention!

I was sitting in my home office poking away at the computer. I live in a first floor apartment in an old four-story brick and stone building (built circa 1910, historical status) when the whole building started to undulate. I knew right off what it was and prepared to hang tight and ride it out.

The first thing that happened was the lights went out and the computer died. Then my desk drawers started sliding in and out. I was sitting at the desk in my wheelchair, and I rolled myself back from the desk. It's a heavy limed oak L-shaped desk, nice and deep, and I have a couple of bookshelves sitting on the back of it. I didn't want to get buried in books if they toppled over. Fortunately, they managed to stay put.

The quakes I had been through before lasted maybe eight, ten, twelve seconds, which, short as that is, seems like an eternity when you're there. But this sucker really seemed to be going on forever! I had the very uncomfortable feeling that I was soon to get a four-story brick and stone building in my lap and figured that could smart a bit! There are a couple of steps at the front entrance, so I go in and out the side door of the building where there is a driveway. I thought it might be a good idea to get out of the building. But it occurred to me that as I was going down the driveway I could very well be subjected to a rain of bricks. I recalled hearing that positioning yourself in a doorframe is about the best protection, so I rolled out of my office, opened the front door of the apartment and sat there in the doorway, watching the large bowl-shaped chandelier in the front hall/lobby swing violently back and forth and had visions of rectangular walls and doorways becoming parallelograms, then springing back again to bend the other way. And the bloody thing was still going!!

It lasted for a total of about 45 seconds, and some reports say over a minute. That may not seem like much, but when you're sitting there heaving and surging back and forth, quite possibly in mortal danger, and you have no good options, you can begin wondering if it well ever end. Or if that will be the end of you!

When it finally rolled to a stop, I heard a couple of fellows coming down the stairs with flashlights. Most of the tenants were away at their jobs, but a few telecommute from home. They knew that I was home, and, bless their hearts, the first thing they did was to check to see that I was okay before they went on to inspect the building for damage (a couple of cracks in some brickwork, but no structural damage).

Seattle City Light got crews out and power was restored to our neighborhood in a remarkably short time. Less than an hour as I recall. Estimates of property damage ranged from 2 to 4 billion dollars (saw photos of cars parked downtown buried in bricks, and the capital building in Olympia was damaged pretty badly) and although no one was reported as being killed directly, one person died of a stress-related heart attack.

Barbara was working at the library at the time. The shelves themselves were pretty well anchored, but they did spend a lot of time the next few days reshelving books. Despite all the bouncing and jigging, the only thing that happened in our apartment was that a lamp jumped off a bookshelf, apparently bounced off a chair, and landed on the living room floor. Didn't break.

I may be some kind of sissy, but magnitude 6.8 was plenty for me, thank you! Geologists (sometimes rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation) keep saying that this area is long overdue for a magnitude 9, complete with tsunami out on the coast.
Vote NO on mag. 9+ Earthquake!
Don Firth

P. S.   Interesting stuff:   The Earthquake Rose, earthquake art produced by the Nisqually quake ("The Rattle in Seattle"). And The New Madrid earthquake. This Wikipedia article is right up to date.