Monday, February 28, 2011

Shaken, Not Stirred


The Viaduct - Seattle's 'Grill'

It has been said that you always remember your first time.  I'm no exception.  Exactly 10 years ago today, at about 11:00 in the morning I was sitting in the 5th floor of an old Seattle office building when the earth moved under my feet.  Literally.

As I sat there, the ground began to rumble and the building swayed noticeably back and forth while books and pictures fell off of shelves on the wall.  I looked up, glanced over at my supervisor at the time and proclaimed rather nonchalantly "Whoa, it's an earthquake". All this happened as I smiled and absorbed what was taking place, not one bit phased by it. 

That comprised the first 10-15 seconds of what became known as The Nisqually Quake, named for the region 30 miles away from Seattle which was the epicenter.  This quake was a shallow quake which measured a significant 6.8 magnitude on the Richter Scale and did considerable damage to a number of old buildings and other structures in the vicinity.  Thankfully, giving it's distance from the city there were no deaths attributed to the quake.

After that initial 15 seconds where I realized what was happening, the violent shaking continued for another 30 seconds.  It's truly amazing how long 45 seconds can seem when it's in the middle of an earthquake.  More amazing still is the lack of concern I demonstrated during and after the incident.  In reality I was much more phased by the normally 20 minute commute which turned into 4 hours, that I experienced on my way to work the next day.  It's funny how that is what actually stressed me out back then.

Now, 10 years to the day since that quake, I am certain that I would react in a much different way if it were to happen again.  First, the reason for the 4 hour commute was because the state had shut down The Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway which runs for a few miles along Seattle's waterfront.  The viaduct was damaged during the quake and ever since there has been a plan to tear it down before another quake takes it down.  That will happen in the next couple of years.  I drive that elevated highway each morning with Lukas on our way to preschool, and each morning at the back of my mind I am slightly fearful of another fatefully timed shaking of the earth. The views from that road are stunning, but it certainly is a long way down.

I have even heard it reported that a similar quake centered along the Seattle Fault line - long overdue for a quake - would claim the lives of an estimated 2000 people and cause billions of dollars in damage.  That thought now gives me considerable pause.

It's 10 years later and I am a father now.  It's 10 years later and I'm certain that given another rumble similar to The Nisqually Quake, I wouldn't be smiling.  I would be concerned for the welfare of Mrs. LIAYF, and more so of Lukas.  Thankfully his daycare is just a few short blocks from where I work, in a one story structure. 

Even hurtling debris, I'm sure I could be there in just a few short minutes.

How about you readers?  What natural disaster do you fear the most?

12 comments:

SciFi Dad said...

Armageddon, mainly because men on horseback make me nervous.

Eric said...

San Antonio is too far inland for a tidal wave to cause any real damage. Unless it was a giant friggin' and i mean FRIGGIN' tidal wave.

The same for hurricanes.

I think an earthquake would give me cause to be concerned. Seeing as how what would normally shelter you would be an object to hurt you.

Tony said...

I came to your blog through a friend's - I remmeber my first tornados (there were two on the ground at the same time) and my first earthquake. I was more scared of the tornados - and I think I would handle it differently if it happened again. We got in a car and drove, which you're not supposed to do if a tornado is following you.

Jack said...

I am a native Californian and have been through some big quakes. I have the utmost respect for them because as you mentioned 30 seconds of shaking can feel like 30 years.

Julianna said...

I'm all set with all natural disasters... I have two "home made" tornados that I live with every day... and man, can they do damage to a clean house. :)

Homemaker Man said...

Zombies.
Rising sea levels.
Charlie Sheen (Hey now!)

Papa K said...

We live in "Tornado Alley" but I'm absolutly not afraid of tornados what so ever. You definitely have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to get obliterated by a tornado. If God is that intent on killing me then I'll just let it happen.

What frightens me are hurricanes. I would never live in Florida because they seem to strike every year!

Also, as Homemaker Man said, Charlie Sheen. And Lindsay Lohan I suppose

Barbara L said...

Okay which natural disaster I fear most depends on what state I live in at the time. I now live in Florida so there are real concerns about hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires. The thing I have nightmares about though? I have this dream that a giant wave sweeps across the state and Florida is wiped out. Seriously. Quit laughing. I have that dream. Have discovered in the years of living here several other people who have the same nightmare. Maybe I'm not so crazy.

Otter Thomas said...

We just had a 5.1 (I think) earthquake in Arkansas on Monday. I felt the couch sway from about 60 miles away, but I didn't even know it was an earthquake until the next morning. I considered it, but then thought that was a crazy idea because that doesn't happen in ARkansas, even though there have been a considerable number of smaller quakes in Arkansas the last several months.

Having said all that I think it is without question that tornados are everyone in this entire states number one fear. We have a lot. And they are probably the most devastating force nature can throw at you.

Pandamonium said...

My husband is right there with you on Earthquakes. He hates them! Though the only reason is because the ground is supposed to stay still...only water moves. lol

Having been through may of the natural disasters, I think I would rather not live through a tornado again. They're wet and windy and do just as much, if not more darnage, as an earthquake.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Scifi - Cowboys would not be good for you either then.

@Eric - Now a Tital Wave seems pretty scarry, doesn't it?

@Tony - Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, a tornado seems smaller scale but pretty devastating while it happens.

@Jack - Yes, it can.

@Julliana - Daily tornadoes can be tough to deal with. :)

@Homemaker Man - Yeah, Charlie is an ongoing disaster.

@Papa K - Funny how being in the path of something doesn't make you as afraid of it as something you might not ever face.

@Barbara - I bet that is intensified now with what happened in Japan.

@Otter - yeah, they would scare me too.

@pandamonium - Yeah, but Earthquakes are more widespread in the damage.

PJ Mullen said...

Living in the Carolinas I'd have to say Hurricanes, even though I live a few hours away from the actual coast. You just never know.