Sitting at my work station today alert signals were sounding off on my phone, iPad and computer as both national and local news apps tracked Tropical Storm Isaac. We may be clear across the country, but we are still very concerned. One CNN alert posted, “New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast faced the anniversary of devastating Hurricane Katrina by hunkering down for new storm amid ‘a high level of anxiety,’ as the Crescent City’s mayor put it Monday.”
Yep! I’d be more than a little anxious, too! We were in Florida several years ago with a hurricane on its way and I felt anxious just watching the local community boarding up glass storefronts while observing hotel personnel shift activity into high gear with well-practiced emergency preparation. I can’t be sure how I’d adjust in a situation where I knew a disaster might be in the making.
I’ve always said that although earthquakes certainly frighten me, we can’t anticipate the ground moving, so the fear factor is at least diminished. It’s difficult to fear what is more random than predictable. That is, unless you’re currently living in the Imperial Valley. More than 400 earthquakes, termed an earthquake swarm, have struck over the last two days at approximately the same epicenter, near Brawley, California. The largest quake yesterday afternoon, magnitude 5.5, hit the farming town with a decent wallop.
I looked it up. Brawley is 192 miles from my home in San Gabriel. I haven’t felt any movement, but just listening to all the talk has me a little jumpy. Like most native Californians, I know just enough to get myself in a lather if I choose to think about the “what ifs.”
I know a fair share of information about tectonic plates. I can reasonably discuss strike-slips, thrust faults and subduction. I know how to read data from the Southern California Seismic Network, and if from around here we ALL know Kate Hutton, nicknamed “Earthquake Kate,” from Pasadena’s Cal-Tech Seismological Laboratory. Kate, along with her colleague Dr. Lucy Jones of the US Geological Survey, are the public faces every Southern California resident needs to know when looking to understand a current quake event or question fact from myth.
If I think about earthquakes with any level of concentration I can easily work into major anxiety. But like most people who live in earthquake areas, we also live in a bit of denial. Earthquakes are certainly not confined to California, and in response to the Coney Island earthquake of 1884, the New York Times published an article which described behaviors that remind me of the time our large family gathered around the table at an Easter dinner when an earthquake hit. We barely missed a beat as the room rocked and chandelier circled our heads.
“Almost before you have had time to feel surprised at the suddenness of the interruption (for the earth never stops to apologize) it is all over; and you pick up the teapot with a smile, continuing the conversation with the greatest attainable politeness, as if nothing at all unusual had happened meanwhile.”
So typical. And so true–unless it’s not a small temblor! Sometimes the jolt is fierce enough to do some serious damage. And we have had those, too. I still get a little queasy if I think about our experiences with the October 1, 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake–we did have damage!
Seismologists have indicated the frequency of these current spasms doesn’t in any way indicate a likelihood for something bigger yet to come. These same earthquake swarms shook this region in the 1930s and the late 1970s, but the swarm will likely last for days, possibly weeks.
Since it’s very hard for me to tune out a “swarm” of anything, it seems prudent to be more productive rather than fearful.
We are putting a little boost of energy into updating our home earthquake preparation and supplies.
It’s time to add a few more items to the measly canned good collection. Many of the other necessary items have been pulled out of stock for use and not replaced. I’m not like the Simpsons’ character Ned , believing insurance to be a form of gambling–my well-being rests better at night with a little forethought, planning and preparation.
So as we work on gathering our earthquake supplies I’ll be sharing some stories from our southland experiences. Since we were ultimately safe in the 1987 quake, although there was damage to the home and it was indeed very frightening, there are also some funny stories I will share. Family lore can be created around the strangest experiences!
Meanwhile, all good thoughts are being much more strategically directed to the people in the path of Isaac. Call it a tropical storm, fine, but any storm that is a hurricane in the making is a serious weather event. I hope it doesn’t gain much strength, but even a Category One hurricane is no small wonder if you’re the one sitting in its path.
So tonight I’m paying attention, on a little alert, but breathing lighter. We have a plan!
- Southern California Earthquake Swarm (36 today alone) happeing today 8 26 12. They are getting larger. 4 & 5 mag now (sherriequestioningall.blogspot.com)
- Earthquake Swarm Rattles Brawley, Southern California – Plus Others Elsewhere Across World. (007blueray.wordpress.com)