so, earthquakes.

8 03 2010

So let’s have a chat about natural disasters, shall we?

(disclaimer: again, this is one of those I started a while back so just put yourself in a setting about 9 days ago please….)

In the past 72 hours we have had or been under the following:

  • 7.3 earthquake
  • 9 aftershocks which have all been between a 4.6 and 5.6
  • 2 tsunami warnings (one of which was major)
  • and something about a tropical cyclone (typhoon)

Now, let’s talk about what that really means.  If I can be frank (which we all know I’m going to do anyway), the 7.3 earthquake was a bitch.  It occurred at 5:31 AM which means that most people on this island were fast asleep in the middle of their REM cycles when they were so rudely awaken by mother nature.  The USGS website says that the shaking lasted for 14 seconds, which I assure you is incorrect.  The shaking started vertically, died off, and then got stronger again.  Only this time, my house was shaking horizontally.  Now, I haven’t ever been in a major earthquake period.  But I do know that if you can feel the earth shaking one way and then all of a sudden it’s shaking the other way, your bed is no long centered under your window, and one picture has removed itself from the wall, that’s not pretty picture.

I quickly discovered I’m terrible in a disaster.  I think I did everything that you are NOT supposed to do in an earthquake.  I ran downstairs, opened my front door, ran back upstairs and went out on my balcony.  Not once did it occur to me to stand in a doorway or to just stay still.   I do remember the entire thing fairly well, though.  I remember having the thoughts of alright, if the balcony falls off, no one will be hurt.  If this shaking from side to side doesn’t stop, the 10 floor apartment building next door will smush my house if it comes down.  What is that noise (it was the chains on my giant chair creaking)?  Who do I call if there’s a gas or water leak? What’s the emergency number in Japan?  To be fair, I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions.  Trust me, I do now.

Wait, what’s that?  We’re under a tsunami warning?  Neat!  You know what else is neat?  American news channels freaking everyone out.  The first tsunami warning was issued after our earthquake here in Japan.  It was cancelled before I ever even got to work an hour and a half later.  The second on the other hand, was for the entire Pacific rim from what I hear.  Turns out I REALLY need to get my TV hooked up or at least get a radio – I didn’t even know about the Chile earthquake until 1130 pm on Saturday.  The tsunami warning was cancelled everywhere except Japan and Russia mostly because we have had pretty bad tsunamis here before.  I think that they also wanted to use the technology that they paid so much for, just sayin’.  Anyway, part of the base closed down including 2 gates.  Anything under 30 feet above sea level was evacuated.  The best part?  I still had to go to work.  Upon arriving there, what do I see?  A group of about 100 Americans standing on top of the headquarters hill.  Staring at the wrong ocean.  So sad to say, I did NOT get a picture of this.

Clearly, we were fine.  The “tsunami” ended up being 20 cm high, or about 6 inches.  The earthquake broke 2 water lines and 2 people sustained minor injuries.  All in all, we were lucky.  Chile, not so much.  To be honest, I think that I went into a mild state of shock during all of this.  I was very aware of what was going on, but in a surreal kind of way.  A, this isn’t really happening kind of way.  More of a, I’m freaking out so I’m going to get ready for work as fast as possible and get out of the house, kind of way.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be sitting in bed watching a hanging lamp shaking back and forth.  Or what the sound of rice paper doors sliding along their rails is when your house starts shaking without any notice or warning.

I feel a little ridiculous saying this, but I have woken up every night since then thinking an earthquake is going on.  Last night I was so convinced, I got out of bed to check the USGS website (shows earthquakes across the world) and to see if my water was still running.  I’m sure this will weirdness will wear off eventually.  I’m hopeful anyway.  But damn, just when you think you are getting settled….BAM.  Natural disaster #383 hits the island.  See ya later normal sleep patterns.

Until something else nutso happens…..sayonara!

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