Apparently, this morning at around 4:00 a.m. the earth moved beneath northern Illinois. A temblor of around 3.8 struck in a farm field near Elgin, at a depth of 3 miles or so. Although there is known fault system called the Sandwich Fault Zone near the epicenter, the USGS is saying this event occurred on a "hidden fault." It was felt over a wide area--apparently reports of shaking came in from as far south as Tennessee. People in Iowa and Wisconsin felt it too. And of course there were reports of it from Chicago, but Jeff and I slept through the whole thing. I wonder if that's because our building is built on sand, which doesn't transmit the seismic waves as well as bedrock does. Hmm. (Edited to add--that is, sand and fill doesn't transmit distant waves as well... if the epicenter is close enough and the shaking severe enough, sand and fill will fall prey to liquifaction--a very bad situation indeed!)
I, however, am taking this as proof-positive that my panic reaction to earthquakes has finally dissipated. Let me explain.
The first earthquake I ever felt was in Syracuse, in central New York state. It struck around six a.m. or so one weekday morning, waking me up in wonderment. What the heck? Is this an earthquake? It wasn't until I turned on the bedside radio for confirmation and heard that yes, indeed! It was a 5.2 or so, centered somewhere closer to the Adirondacks, that I became a tad frightened. Within a few minutes, though, I was over it. Throughout the day, everyone was talking about it and how weird it felt--a kind of rocking sensation, gentle but unnerving.
Fast forward a few years, to when I took up residence in a very seismically active place: San Francisco, CA. A few months before I moved there, the Bay Area had experienced 6.2 temblor that did some considerable damage in Morgan Hill, near the epicenter. Within two months of moving to San Francisco, I felt my first west coast earthquake... although it wasn't all that strong. It was a lot like the one I felt in Syracuse, to be honest. Kind of fun to ride out, once you realize the shaking is not going to intensify. For a while, we were getting earthquakes in the high 4s and low 5s every six months or so. Nothing we couldn't handle. Nothing we couldn't joke about the next day.
And then came Loma Prieta.
That one started much the same as the others: the building began to shake a bit, back and forth, the timbers began to whine and squeak... I made my way to my usual spot, which was the bathroom door frame, near the core of the building. We didn't really have a sturdy table to dive under, and our very sturdy desk was in the window bay--too close to glass for comfort. I figured I'd stand there in the doorway, a hand on each jamb, and ride it out as usual. But this time it didn't peter out. This time it DID intensify. And how! And it didn't just shake. It rolled. The building twisted. At the height of the shaking, the entertainment center came into view... it was located on a wall parallel to the wall in which the doorway where I stood was located. Impossible, I thought. But I saw it. And the TV ended up in the middle of the living room floor, so...
From that day forth (until this morning?), I have never been cavalier about earthquakes again. Even the small ones--the 3.8s and such--sent me into near panic. One thing a big earthquake can do is undermine your belief in the phrase "solid ground." Nuh-uh. Ain't no such thing. And even after I moved to a place where the ground is fairly solid--more solid than the ground of California, at least--my panic response held. Once, a few years after I became a Chicagoan, we took the kids to the Museum of Science and Industry where we watched an IMAX film on earthquakes. Loma Prieta was featured, and the security camera clips of things shaking and falling and breaking triggered an anxiety attack of rather massive proportions--something I really thought I was past. It was all I could do to stay in my seat and be quiet while tears streamed down my face.
And so, I'm amazed that I didn't feel this particular earthquake. Maybe I am over this 20+ year old psychological trauma. That would be nice.
Although I must say, it explains why the cats were so darned weird this morning. I mean, weirder than usual.
A coda: Many of the accounts I've read online of people who experienced this morning's little shaker mention the sound of it. Some reports describe a low, deep rumbling. Others mention a sonic boom or loud explosive sound right before the shaking began. I have to say, though, that in all the earthquakes I've experienced, weak or strong, I have never heard anything like that. The only sounds I've ever heard are the floor joists screaming and stuff falling and glass breaking. Although it makes sense that rock grinding against rock would make some kind of sound...
Labels: crazy kittehs, earthquakes, panic