When the Earth Shakes · 20 July 2019

USGS Earthquake Event

I do not like getting woken up. Especially just before 3 am. Sheesh! But what are you going to do? Sometimes the earth shakes and up you wake.

I have felt three earthquakes that I remember. I must say that I would rather be woken up and tell bad jokes to one of my kids who was still awake (I asked him if the earthquake shook him up) than be in the other situations. Okay. Neither of the other two was that bad, but how often do you get to tell stories about earthquakes?

The first earthquake was the worst of them all. I have no idea how severe it was, but I know that I was in the worst situation of the three during that first earthquake. I was under a car. Not completely under mind you. I was rotating the tires on my wife’s car. (Actually, she was not yet my wife, but it is easier to say my wife’s car than my future-wife’s car or some other nonsense like that.) The car was in this tiny garage and was up on the jack. It was not on jack stands. So when the earth started shaking, all I could do was get as far away from the car as I could (which was only about a foot away), and hope and pray it did not fall on me. Looking back on it now, I realize that even if I had half the car raised up, it would have just fallen straight down. But I was not in a place to think through the physics of the situation since I was in a confined space with a two-ton vehicle raised up on a jack and the whole thing wiggling and jiggling while the earth shook. Needless to say, I was thankful that the shaking did not last too long and that the vehicle was still on the jack. And now I am grateful for the folks who rotate my tires every six months or so.

The second earthquake taught me a little about earthquake preparedness. I was in my classroom just talking to students while they worked when the earth rolled underneath us. One of my students screeched a bit and asked if we were supposed to get under the desks or something. Another just sat there and said he had been through lots of earthquakes in California and this was nothing. The rest sat there or ducked a bit, but did not say a thing. I just stood there. The quake was over in a couple seconds, but the projector was still swaying a bit. That was when I realized that earthquake preparedness is not all it is cracked up to be. At least not for a three second quake. We did not really have time to get under the desks. (Maybe a couple people made it.) We certainly did not have time to panic and run screaming out the door. But I knew that I could take care of my students in the aftermath of a big quake. I could keep them calm and I could make sure everybody was safe and sound. After all, I knew (and still know) first aid.

I am certainly not making fun of earthquake preparedness or earthquakes in general. I just know that I am an earthquake wimp. And I know I would certainly not like to be in any that are bigger than the three that I have endured. (I think the largest was a 5.0 on the Richter scale.)

The latest earthquake I endured was last weekend. Like I said, it woke me up just before 3 am. I knew it was an earthquake right away, but I did not panic. I just knew it was an earthquake. And I knew my youngest son was still up, so I checked to make sure he was okay. That he was not too shaken up by the event. (I know. It is still a bad joke.) I also checked to make sure there was no gas leaking in the kitchen. (I had visions of gas pooling invisibly on the floor.) And after the second little shake (which felt like a truck rumbling by), I went back to sleep.

I am not very fond of earthquakes. And I hope I only experience minor tremors like the three so far. Especially, if the worst thing that happens is that I get woken up at 3 am by the earth shaking.

© 2019 Michael T. Miyoshi

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