I don’t like earthquakes. In Alaska, we live with them because we have no choice. Same as people do in California and other seismic areas around the U.S. They happen whether we like them or not.
Each time we quake-n-shake, the media gives us geology lessons: Alaska sits on the northern rim of the Pacific Plate (the largest tectonic plate on Planet Earth). As the Pacific Plate moves north, it collides with the North American Plate. We know Alaska has volcano quakes and plate quakes. We hope for the lesser-impact volcano quakes.
Everyone in Alaska is a pocket-geologist. “Heck we don’t even notice the one, two, and three magnitudes–don’t even feel those. Fours and fives—no biggie. Sixes and sevens—hope the epicenter’s far away. Eights and nines, well…” No one likes to finish that sentence.
Those who endured the 1964, 9.2 quake in Anchorage, lasting 240 seconds—4 minutes—fear all earthquakes, no matter the magnitude. When you share indoor space with one of these folks, they freeze with fear or run screaming for an exit. You won’t find these people in a movie theater watching “San Andreas.”
Each earthquake has a ‘personality.’ Yesterday’s Cook Inlet earthquake was a gradual, rumbling buildup to a strong jolt, less shaking, then another big jolt. These are the nerve-wracking quakes. Others move up and down, like in a boat, riding sea waves; you get a dizzy, seasick feeling. Dramamine, anyone? Yesterday’s quake moved side-to-side. These scare me most; because I’m afraid my house will buckle and collapse.
Yesterday’s quake was the second one this year where I dived under my oak dining room table with the dogs. I don’t have to train them what to do during an earthquake. When they spot me on the floor, they think I want to be a dog like them. They scurry under the table, wagging tails and licking face, as everything rattles around us.
As the quake hit, Channel 2 News in Anchorage was halfway through the evening news broadcast. Maria Downey had a fight-or-flight look, and when she and her co-anchor fought the impulse to freak out on the air, I took my cue to dive under the table. I clutched a panting dog with each arm, as Maria sounded like a broken-up cell phone call: Seems we’re…having…a pretty good…earthquake…still going…we’ll…we’ll…give you…epicenter and…mag…ni…tude reports soon as…we can.
My wine glasses knocked against the glass window of their cabinet, like they wanted out to party. The quake rumbled, moving everything, seemingly forever. Finally the shaking subsided, except for the hanging lights and my daughter’s baby shower balloons, which continued moving.
I crawled out from under the table, breathing a sigh of relief, having weathered another one—the Nepal earthquake catastrophe and other recent, strong Pacific Rim quakes still fresh on my mind.
The dogs refused to emerge.
After the earthquake, I rushed to my computer to http://www.aeic.alaska.edu/recent/macsub/ for the magnitude and location of the epicenter. The site crashed as everyone else did the same. Within the hour, I learned it was a tectonic plate quake, 6.3 mag, 73 miles deep, with the epicenter 9 miles south of Mt. Iliamna volcano, 154 miles from Eagle River. It lasted over half a minute. To me, it seemed longer.
I’m thankful this wasn’t a bad one. So life continues—as I cross my fingers for the next one.
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2015, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. LIPS