Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rocking and Rolling

It's funny, just today I was discussing the USGS Earthquake web site with a colleague at work. Then this evening (about 40 minutes ago), I was sitting peacefully reading the newspaper when the whole house started to rock and the windows rattled. This quake was located 16 KM deep and 2 KM NE of Lafayette, CA - which is about 10 miles from my house. Maybe 12. It was magnitude 4.2, which is a healthy shake, enough to make the house creak really well.

If you've never sat through an earthquake, they're very unsettling, because your house isn't supposed to shake under you like that. Also, they create a weird form of time dilation - the seismograph traces (available on the USGS site) show that the shaking lasted for 12-15 seconds, but it felt like about 5 years. And this was a relatively minor shake; I remember the Loma Prieta quake (6.9) which I would have sworn went on for 30 seconds or longer (but Wikipedia says it was 15 seconds; I'm still not sure I believe that). There's always a point in a quake where you ask, "Isn't it done yet??" and it's not.

With all that, it's over now, and nobody was hurt, and nothing even fell off the shelves (at least not here). At least we don't have tornadoes.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:45 AM

    Not yet, anyway. Florida, on the other hand, is apparently immune to earthquakes (excepting tsunamis generated by earthquakes) because of 5000 feet of shock absorber on top of the granite tongue on which we sit (I think I remember that correctly). But cyclonic wind activity, boy do we ever have that, both large and small.

    Earthquake spared David

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  2. On the other hand, the bulk of the recent cyclonic wind activity seems to be in Alabama, sad to say. I haven't read about anything awful happening in Florida recently.

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  3. Anonymous9:21 PM

    We did luck out yesterday and today. The tornado watches passed with only some very brisk straight line winds, thank Lobster. Can you imagine having a son or daughter go off to school in the morning, only to be killed when a tornado hit the school. There's something especially unnerving about that. For me it would feel the way I imagine it would feel for a parent to send children to Sunday school, only to have a tornado kill them.

    Anonymous David

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  4. You know, life in general is much more uncertain than people want to admit to themselves. You find it unnerving that these children went off to school and never came home; there are children every day who get in a car to go for a ride and never come home because the car crashes. There are children in bad neighborhoods who go out for a walk and never come home because some idiot with a gun shot them.

    The unnerving thing about the Alabama case is that these children were killed by the weather. We think we've got that under control, with forecasts and so on. But that is what global warming is doing: it's changing the weather. It's making it less predictable; it's moving the extremes out farther. Not that tornadoes aren't generally unnerving.

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  5. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Got to agree, hedera.

    Anonymous David

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  6. Boggart8:15 PM

    It gets worser and worser. Our insurance company is no longer underwriting policies in Florida or southern California. When I read the formal letter, which carefully placed the blame on the underwriters as if they were somehow unconnected to the company itself, I thought, “We don’t have hurricanes in Southern California.” Of course, we do have the odd earthquake, as Hedra described. We eventually, and pretty quickly, found a very healthy California insurance company that gave us an even better deal than we’d had with our original insurance company. This is great for us, but what about the folks in Florida? What about the folks being hit by tornados? What will they do?

    Yes, since it isn’t completely legal to just pull the insured rug out from under people, we were offered a new, but not improved policy. Any damage to the house or contents and we would get $1,000. or ten percent, whichever was larger. Somehow, it seemed slim compensation, since the cost of the policy stayed the same. Yep, a gotcha…

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  7. stephen7:48 AM

    The trick is to not let it ruin you life. I live right in "Tornado Alley" and we get several every year. You can't do anything about them, so concentrate on the time you have and make the most of NOW. A good friend of mine had their house burn down last week, everyone got out safe, and they are just happy no one was hurt. Possesions can be replaced. That is the attitude to have.

    It is a shame to hear about the insurance company, Boggart. I don't know how they get away with that kind of stuff. Isn't the point of insurance to protect you from the things that happen in your area?

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  8. Anonymous7:54 AM

    Boggart,

    It is getting very exciting down here on the peninsula. Insurance rates have gone up about 500% since Andrew in '92, with most of the increases coming in the last few years. And the refusal of carriers to insure is really compounding the problem. We have a state insurance program for otherwise uninsurable properties, including coastal luxury properties and mobile homes, but it is badly undercapitalized and a fiscal meltdown just waiting for the next cat 4-5.

    Can't wait to see how the next chapters of this saga are going to read.

    Anonymous David

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  9. Anonymous7:46 PM

    everyone got out safe, and they are just happy no one was hurt. Possesions can be replaced. That is the attitude to have.

    Amen, Stephen. That is how I was raised, and I am very grateful for it.

    Anonymous David

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  10. Yes, the insurance industry boggles my mind. Their business, or so they say, is to sell you protection against risk; but the minute they perceive there might actually BE some risk, off they scuttle. Feh. Glad you were able to make other arrangements.

    I have to agree about concentrating on making the most of now.

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  11. Boggart7:49 PM

    Might as well make the most of now. Once you are gone all your unused tomorrows are somebody elses todays.

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