No doubt, most (if not all) of us have been glued to the news about the tragedy in Japan. I’ve been especially interested for a couple of reasons. First, I have two aunts in Japan. They are both fine (one lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido and one is Osaka) and out of danger. The second, and much more selfish reason is, I live in California.
Yes. I’ve been through a few earthquakes in my time. Most of the time, you kind of wonder what a truck is doing driving down the street in front of your house. Then, before you have a chance to do anything, a little shake rattle and roll happens. Five maybe ten seconds. It’s usually all over before you even realize what’s going on.
Some are much larger though. The most terrifying I’ve been in was probably the Northridge earthquake in 1994. From a pure magnitude perspective, it was major, but not catastrophic (6.7). It lasted a whole 20 seconds. 20 freaking seconds. It felt like a lifetime. But, its proximity to where I was living at the time (about 30 miles) made the shaking pretty terrifying. Books flying off shelves. Paintings off the walls. Cupboards dumping out their contents kind of shaking. Ever watch a cupboard door open on it’s own?
The largest I’ve experienced was Landers in 1992 – out in the desert sorta kinda near Palm Springs. It’s about the same distance from where I was living as Tokyo was from the quake in Japan. We rocked and rolled for pretty close to two minutes. Because of the physical distance, the shaking was not severe. But, I had to physically hold a 30 gallon fish tank to keep from having a minor gold fish extermination event. The worst part was the shaking just kept going on and on and on. And on. Forever. That was a 7.2 magnitude quake.
Any of my fellow Southern Californians remember those quakes? Well, let’s put Japan in perspective. 3 plus minutes of shaking. 9.0 magnitude. Since the moment magnitude scale is logarithmic, that means the quake in Japan was 2818.382 times stronger than Northridge. Hell – there were aftershocks in Japan larger than either the Landers or Northridge quakes.
The scientists say we’re due*. Just remember how Los Angeles ground to a halt in 1994. If you’re not prepared just keep in mind - there are no riots or looting in Japan. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. It can happen here. It probably will.
* The good news is that the type of quakes we have here in California (strike-slip) makes tsunamis unlikely.