Just As I Thought


And there it is: my first real earthquake in California. A 5.6, 9 miles from me.
I’m shaking like a leaf. My house shook like a truck hit it.
It was far scarier than I had expected it to be.

I should write more about this while I am still completely freaked out and have the sense memory of it all.
First, scary premonition: just yesterday I was telling myself that I expected an earthquake at any time now. So, you’d think it wouldn’t have been a surprise.
It definitely was. And here’s why: I didn’t know what it was.
Of the couple of earthquakes I’ve experienced in my life — one or two here, one back in Virginia — the actual quake was gentle and swaying, building slowly and kind of pleasant.
This one was not like that.
First, there was a kind of rattling sound, and it was quickly followed by a truck hitting the house, or so I thought. It felt like the house, well, resisted the hit; but then it started to move. Like it was floating on waves, back and forth, up and down.
I grabbed Diego and held on to him, freaking out. It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever been through. And I was shocked not just by the earthquake, but by the amount of time it took me to figure out what was going on.
But while it was all very scary, there seems to be no damage: my house is okay, and amazingly nothing fell off shelves here at my place (although as part of an “extended family” at JC Penney, I’m hearing that there is damage at Eastridge Mall which is about 3 7 miles from the epicenter). My pictures are askew, but all is well.
I’m definitely not going to be able to sleep tonight. Or maybe for the next week.

9:00pm. I’m heartened that my house was basically completely unaffected by a 5.6 earthquake, but I am really concerned that AT&T’s cellular network is screwed up here now and I can’t get any SMSes out. Isn’t that what we all assume we’d use in the event of a disaster? I also was able to make long distance calls, but not local.

Every few minutes I hear a loud noise of some sort, could be airplanes over at the airport, but it makes me freeze expecting another jolt.

Here’s where the pictures by my front door settled after it was all over.

10:15pm. Damage found! I’ve been so freaked out that I haven’t gone to the restroom until now, and while in there I discovered that the tile in the corner has been broken into three pieces. But my camera battery is run down and the phone camera sucks, so I’ll post this significantly dramatic image some other time.

10:30pm. This was the largest earthquake in the Bay Area since Loma Prieta in 1989. There’s obviously some correlation between earthquakes and the World Series.

11:20pm. When will I calm down? How long will it take? Will I ever be able to sleep again?

11:30pm. Some kid was making a YouTube video when the earthquake hit. Not very impressive video, just starts right at the end then the video stops. http://www.youtube.com/wedoparodies

Just FYI, here’s the official forecast for aftershocks.

STRONG AFTERSHOCKS (Magnitude 5 and larger)
At this time (immediately after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock IN THE NEXT 7 DAYS is approximately 30 PERCENT.

Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence. However, there is a small chance (APPROXIMATELY 5 TO 10 PERCENT) of an earthquake equal to or larger than this mainshock in the next 7 days.

WEAK AFTERSHOCKS (Magnitude 3 to 5)
In addition, approximately 15 to 40 SMALL AFTERSHOCKS are expected in the same 7-DAY PERIOD and may be felt locally.

11:45pm. It’s deathly quiet outside, almost eerie. I live in a quiet neighborhood, but I-880 runs two blocks away and the airport is a mile east. Still, no cars and no planes. On this night it seems to have great significance.

I’m a grown man, reasoned and intelligent, and I have read tons of information about earthquakes since I was in junior high and did a science fair project on plate tectonics. But while I have a good grounding in the science of it all, I was not prepared for the psychology of it. I’ve forced myself to lay in my bed, but I — rationally or irrationally — can’t seem to make myself get undressed, just in case I need to get out of the house. I have the TV turned up loud so that I won’t lay here in the quiet listening for another freight train headed for my house.
I wish I could be as carefree as Diego, laying at the foot of the bed chewing on a Greenie. Then again, he now knows that if there is a disaster, I’ll be holding him tightly to my chest and protecting him.

Don’t know if I’ll be sleeping, but… good night.


  • Your first time, eh? Mine was a 5.4., the first one. It’s always scary past 5.5.

  • Just heard the news from Jann. I know it’s hard but try and relax….I remember I was always a wreck for a few days afterwards, takes time to get used to those things. How did Diego fair? I’ll be thinking of all of you and praying the worst is over.

  • Well, I wish I’d been on Potrero with you guys.
    But then I wouldn’t have learned the important lessons I learned tonight. First is that I should not hunker down on the couch during an earthquake but should instead get under a table or something. Second is that an earthquake is scary, scary shit.

  • Glad you are ok! I heard about it on NPR this morning and thought of you and Jeff and Thom. Yeah sounds like a terrifying event, but glad there was no serious damage.


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