Wednesday, July 30, 2008

5.4 is nothing

We had an earthquake here in Los Angeles yesterday. I ended up under a table. Here is my story.

I was meeting with three executives and a few other people in a conference room in Carson. We were about 25 miles from the epicenter. I felt the first of the gentle p-waves and said aloud "Earthquake". Everyone looks at me, and then rests their hands on the table as if to feel the movement with their hands. A few seconds later the first real jolt hit. One of the executives yells "Earthquake, get under the table". As one we pushed back our chairs and dove under the conference room table. I did not need to be told to get under the table. The moment the real jolt hit I was diving for cover. The same executive who ordered us under the table continued our meeting by saying "I did not catch who had the action item on that last point". We all laughed. Our laughter ended when the big jolt hit a few seconds later. We knew then that this quake was big enough to cause damage. Some guessed 7 on Richter Scale, I guessed a 6. Preliminary measurements put it at 5.8. I was later downgraded to a 5.4.

When the quake ended I jumped up and activated our Disaster Recover Plan. We checked the generators, pulled the backup tapes, and got our DR kits ready to travel to our secret DR site. There was no need. The power stayed on, communications held, and there was little risk to our operations. It pays to be ready, but it is much better when we don't need to use it at all.

I went through the motions with my personal DR plan too. I made contact with family and friends. Located out of town relatives, and arranged to check on houses. My son was home alone during the quake. At 13 it was quite an ordeal. We live 13 miles for the epicenter. My house took a beating but suffered no damage. Except for my son, who went through is first real quake alone, like I did at his age.

I've been in a lot of earthquakes. I know what to do. Anyone who lives in Los Angeles knows what to do. It does not stop you from being afraid. I was afraid. I am always afraid during earthquakes. My first experience was with the Sylmar (7.2) earthquake of 1971. I was ten at the time. My dog, a St. Bernard named Penny, had jumped into my bed at 5:55 AM. She pulled on my pajamas with her teeth in an attempt to drag me out of bed. I figured she need to pee, so I got up and took her into the back yard. At 6:01 the earthquake started. The earth moved so violently that I fell down. The water in our swimming pool sloshed out into our backyard. The dirt undulated like it was the surface of the ocean. Sparks flew from transformers as they exploded overhead. It seemed like the earth was coming to an end. I was scared. I stayed that way for a very long time. My dog stood over me during the quake. It was like she was protecting me from harm. She was a good dog.

I checked on my current dog, a Minipin named Thor, when I stopped to check in on my son. Thor was hiding under a bed. He had pooped in the hallway (a very rare thing), and would not come out from under the bed until I give him a little love. Thor is no Penny.

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Anonymous said...

Yep, earthquakes suck. No warning what so ever...a few of my co-workers experienced their first one the other day too. Like you I scrambled under my desk as soon as the "rumble" lasted more than what we thought was construction. I immediately thought of my son, and when they evacuated us from the building I went straight to my car and to his school. He was fine, the teachers said that the kids were more freaked out about being hurried under the desks more than the earthquake itself.

Yep, earthquakes SUCK.


milimod said...

I've always lived east of the Mississippi, and I know we get quakes here too, but so far I've never felt one. Frankly, at this stage of my life, if the ground started moving under me I'd probably have a highly embarrassing bodily accident.

Tornadoes are almost as bad, but they make good video...

Y'all are brave out there in CA.

Carolyn Ann said...

Glad to hear you're okay!

Carolyn Ann

Carolyn Ann said...

I was just thinking of the DR plan we had in place - at one Wall St company I worked at. My boss didn't put anything into it (he even tried to get the backup generators removed; fotunately, he didn't have that much authority!): he said nothing would ever happen,
"it was Wall St". He said this in 1997.

Carolyn Ann