Shaken, Stirred, and Scared

March 10, 2014

earthquake-jakara-artRain and a bit of wind this early morning, but knock all the weather aside, the big event happened a few hours ago — a 6.9 earthquake about 70 miles from me.
Seventy miles ain’t nothing when the earth moves.

Along with the 6.9, there have been at least 19 aftershocks — the giant at about a quarter-after 10 last night, and the cluster started sprouting right after, a couple of those, at 4.6 and 4.4 respectively, lead the shaking.

(Illustration: ‘Earthquake,’ by Jakara Art, found here).

And in the time it took for me to shave and shower just now, another aftershock, this one a whopping 4.5 added itself to the shaking cluster-fuck. According to the Northern California Seismic System (NCSS): At this time (6 hours after the mainshock) the probability of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days is greater than 90 percent. Most likely, the recent mainshock will be the largest in the sequence. However, there is a small chance (approximately 5 to 10 percent) of an earthquake equal to or larger than this mainshock in the next 7 days. In addition, approximately 10 to 20 small aftershocks are expected in the same 7-day period and may be felt locally.
Yeah, right — ‘felt locally.’

Earthquakes scare the shit out of me. After residing all over the US, California has some weird shit, and the worse is earthquakes. Terrifying as a tornado, but with zero advance warning. In those twisters, at least you have the weather to foretell what could happen, and having been born and raised in south Alabama, tornadoes are fairly easy to handle next to earthquakes.
Nearly four years ago, we had a 6.5 just south of Eureka (about 10 miles south of me) and it scared the livin’ crap outta me. I posted about the experience here.
In that 2010 shaker, it was closer and not as deep.

The one last night was different. I go to bed ridiculously early (and get up ridiculously early) and at the time had just awoken with the sensation of having to go potty, which I fought dreamily to suppress, but couldn’t, when the walls started to shake. At first, I figured it was a wind shear of some kind (raining and a bit windy then), but the whole scenario felt creepy.
My brain then hot-wired — earthquake!
After freezing in pure fright, then mentally working-off the terror, I dashed downstairs to the living room and quickly powered up the laptop. Once on the ‘Net, then swiftly to my Bookmarks and the USGS earthquake map — at first it was a 4-something, then right in front of my eyes, revised to the 6.9.
And the little aftershocks started popping all around the area. There were like six or seven before I wore down and flopped frightfully back to bed.
I always check the USGS site at least on a daily basis, or sometimes like now, check it on a way-regularly way. The view of my location is so weird — I’ve never seen a cluster like that before, and believe me, it’s way-beyond scary.

The whole region, however, is deep, deep within earthquake country:

This area of northern California is known for its frequent earthquakes as it is near the convergence of three geographical features.
The San Andreas Fault meets the Mendocino Fault and the Cascadia Subduction zone just offshore of Cape Mendocino; locals know it as Triple Junction.
Three tectonic plates meet in this location; the Pacific Plate, the North American Plate and the Gorda plate.
Residents of Humboldt County are used to being awakened by movement of these plates.

We never get use to it, only an idiot would.
Mike Horn, director of the Imperial County Behavioral Health, commenting after a 7.2 quake struck Baja California on Easter Sunday 2010: “If you were in a 7.2 earthquake, and you’re not anxious for a couple days, there’s something wrong with you. Nature put anxiety into us to get us thinking about what our contingency plans are.”

But these shakers are just going to get worse as the earth warms: As the ice sheets melted so this gigantic volume of water was returned, bending the crust around the margins of the ocean basins under the enormous added weight, and provoking volcanoes in the vicinity to erupt and faults to rupture, bringing geological mayhem to regions remote from the ice’s polar fastnesses.

Now I’m just way-more scared.
Meanwhile, back to your regular news programming.

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