Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did The Earth Move For You?

We had another earthquake in Santa Barbara this morning. A 5.4, fortunately centred nearly 200 miles away near Pomona. It was just a knee-trembler for us. In my *vast* experience of earthquakes there seem to be two distinct types, the 'shaker' and the 'roller'. This one was a roller; suddenly my office seemed to pitch and roll very gently, as if we were suddenly transplanted on board an ocean liner (well, a girl can dream). If I wasn't sitting at my desk I would have thought 'hmm, when was the last time I ate - feeling a little light-headed'. One look at the potted plant on my filing cabinet suddenly coming to life like a Triffid made me think otherwise though. Well, that and my assistant running in from next day going 'fucking hell did you feel that?' Perfect etiquette in front of our waiting room full of elderly patients, all no doubt in for vertigo who were probably thinking 'welcome to my world young lady'.

It was all over in a flash, like most things that end with a bloke saying 'did the earth move for you'. A quick google of 'recent earthquakes' confirmed this:

Moments later people were pretending they hadn't just been blindly running between door jambs trying to pick the most structurally sound, and instead started pontificating on the theme of 'small earthquakes are good because they relieve pressure'. Not content with this, I googled a bit further and found this:

There is a 99 percent chance of California experiencing a quake of magnitude 6.7 or larger within the next 30 years, according to the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Geological Survey and the Southern California Earthquake Center and published in Science Daily in April.

I'm sorry what? A 99% chance in the next 30 years. When was the article published???. Plane ticket for the UK right here please! I have been wondering lately whether a 1 in 4000 chance of a baby with Downs was acceptable odds (a different post entirely). A 99 out of 100 chance of a massive earthquake, 'the big one' within my lifetime? Sweet dreams everyone!


Almost American said...

I thought of you when I heard about the earthquake! I thought you're the only person I 'know' who would have been affected.

So I was very surprised to get an email from my brother (who lives in the UK) - from LA!
"the guys here very kindly laid on a magnitude 5.4 earthquake today. It was all very exciting. It was a real building shaker. I was in a meeting room at the edge of the building and you could really see the relative movement between us on the inside and the stuff outside that should really have been standing still. It was several inches of movement back and forth (it's a very new building, only 3 years old and it's built on rollers apparently and designed to withstand much bigger quakes). There was a few seconds before anyone responded but then everyone was very animated. Lots of shouting and running about and people diving under their desks! I thought they'd all be a bit more laid back about it.
I was impressed afterwards though - there was a very rapid consensus that it was "about a 5 or 6".They certainly know their earthquakes here."

I experienced a couple of much smaller quakes when I was living in Taipei, and I have to say I wouldn't choose to live in an earthquake zone!

Anonymous said...

Kate was sitting next to me while I was reading your post. She looked at the graph and asked me if "that was one of those earthquake thingies". "How did you know that?" I asked, She said "mom,I'm just a tiny bit smart". Clearly she was switched at birth.

Anonymous said...

There is not a 99% chance for every inch of California, as you know, only a relatively small area will usually be impacted by any earthquake, even the big one. So I like my chances anywhere in a state that is more than 2,000 miles long, not to be in the random spot where the action is sometime in the next thirty years. How many people will be impacted by winning the lottery in the next thirty years? Probably more than die in an earthquake. Don't get me started on shark bites...

Hyphen Mama said...

Hold on while I thank my lucky stars I don't live in a very earthquake prone zone. I've never experienced the earth move. I'm not sure I'd be okay with it.

Glad it was just a small one....=)

Expatmum said...

Given that we had a 5.4 a few months back, and I could feel it a LOT, I will no longer feel smug about "idiots who choose to live on a fault line'. Except that I didn't realise Chicago was on a fault line - which i suppose makes me an even bigger idiot!