My First Earthquake

Wednesday July 30th, 2008

I experienced my first earthquake yesterday, a 5.4. It was pretty scary and totally exciting. My expectations have been formed by what I’ve seen in movies but the actual event was very different. It was as if my apartment building was dropped into a large body of water. First there was a huge, but eerily silent vibration as if a big giant tripped and fell in our upstairs neighbor’s apartment, and then the swaying back and forth like floating in a wave pool. Both E and I ran into the center of the apt and stood under the hallway doors while staring at each other with wide eyes. My first thought was “what the hell just hit our building?”. We quickly figured out that we were having an earthquake and then I was suddenly worried that I had no shoes on and my toes were going to get cut off.

The apt. silently swayed for about 10 seconds after the initial shake in a very smooth, aquatic nature. Looking out our open windows really heightened the effect as the view was going back and forth. I remember seeing a women out on the sidewalk with a stroller cruising along as if nothing had happened. It made me second guess my understanding of what just happened for a millisecond, “wait, maybe something did hit us!”.

Afterwards, I called my mom because I’m perpetually dead in a ditch somewhere if she hasn’t heard from me even after a hard rain. I waited maybe five minutes to call her. By the time she picked up and I told her the news she had turned on the local news in Ohio which already had a story about it. Pretty damn fast.

Later, at work in Santa Monica, I witnessed part of a power grid explode, taking all the electricity in the area with it. I’ve seen individual transformers blow on telephone poles but this was like something out of a movie. First there was an extremely loud electrocution noise, but on steroids, when I looked over at the grid I saw huge flames shooting into the air with the power of a rocket. Maybe 15 to 20 feet up. That lasted only a few seconds. Then an enormous, beige mushroom cloud, pushed sideways by the wind, came over the street. I got to go home early.

It was a very non-relaxing day to say the least.

  • Brian Upton

    Wow. Now you’re a veteran! Shake, rattle and roll, as they say. Oh, BTW….the beige mushroom cloud was probably PCB’s (PolyChloroByphenyl) or commonly, Transformer Oil on fire. Carcinogenic. EEeewww.

  • Wow … great account of events, very funny!

  • Elizabeth

    I think that’s the best description ever of that earthquake. Not at all violent, but eerie and vaguely aquatic. Nice.

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