Shake, Rattle and Roll

Yesterday we had two earthquakes on the Hayward fault. Relatively minor earthquakes, for those of us who weren’t actually on top of the epicenter. Nevertheless, my downtown Oakland office building shook.

It was unnerving. Particularly since the occupants of my workplace had just that morning participated in a statewide earthquake drill. Drop, roll and cover. We were supposed to get under our desks and hold on.

I joked with my coworkers, telling them the next major effort after that would be getting me out from under my desk and upright. See my earlier blog entry about creaky knees.

Later in the evening, as I read e-mail at my home computer, the earth moved again, this time more of a thud and quiver rather than a shake, rattle and roll. Again unnerving.

After all, it’s the third week in October, and that’s when the Loma Prieta quake hit Northern California, on October 17, 1989.

After both of yesterday’s quakes, I immediately steered my Internet browser to the earthquake page on the US Geologic Service website, where a map shows fault lines and recent earthquake activity in California and Nevada. It’s always interesting to see how many small quakes occur each day.

USGS Map of Recent Bay Area Earthquakes

I have lived in California long enough to feel a shaker and say, “Oh, that was probably a four-pointer.” As indeed one of yesterday’s quakes was.

But I’m never blasé about earthquakes. Each time the earth moves I stop and wait, alert, wondering if this is just a minor earth movement, a release along a fault, or The Big One the geologic experts are always warning us about.

In the Bay Area, we’re never far from an earthquake fault. When I worked on the UC Berkeley campus, my building was a block away from the Hayward fault, which runs right through Memorial Stadium. That’s the fault the experts are predicting is due for a major quake. When? Who knows? Predicting earthquakes is difficult. All we can do is be aware, and make sure the earthquake preparedness kit is up to date. I’m going to work on that this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this snippet from my upcoming novel, What You Wish For:

The hotel, a white confection surrounded by manicured grounds and tennis courts, rose at the base of the Berkeley hills, where a major earthquake fault lay beneath wooded slopes and canyons. Like a snake slithering from its den to bite the unwary, the fault sometimes made its presence felt with a shake that rattled the animate and knocked the inanimate from shelves. Then the ground would still. The damage would be catalogued, the broken glass swept up and discarded. Until next time. There was always a next time, one that might bring a fatal bite.

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2 Responses to Shake, Rattle and Roll

  1. N J Gill says:

    I was in Safeway’s old headquarters at 4th & Jackson on 10/17/89. Anybody ever asks me how long 15 seconds can be, I tell them “weeks”.

  2. janet says:

    Yes, indeed, those long seconds seem to stretch out when the earth is moving!

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