Scaredy Cats

Here’s the thing, I grew up in Southern California. Earthquake central. In fact, I was just a few short miles from the big bad nasty San Andreas Fault line. See?

That blue dot? That’s my childhood home. Earthquakes were no joke growing up.

Landers, 1992 – 7.2 – This was crazy. Just crazy. It was just before 5 am … NOT a fun wake up call. Shaking lasted 3 minutes.

Big Bear, 1992 – 6.5 – All of three hours after Landers. These two are what you would call a “regional earthquake sequence.” *

Northridge, 1994 – 6.7 – I was far enough out that we didn’t get the worst of the shaking, but it was bad, even by us. Worst damage I’ve ever seen in person. ::shakes head::

Hector Mine, 1999 – 7.1 – Middle of the night earthquakes are the worst. Especially when you have a little sister sleeping on a bunk above your head. I don’t think I’ve EVER gotten out of bed that quickly!

And those are only the ones I REMEMBER, that are over 6.0. Yesterday, though in an unexpected place … 5.8. The different between a 5.8 and 6.0 is HUGE. Exponential growth.  It’s to the point that I could very easily say “5.8? Oh, that’s nothing.”

But I won’t. An earthquake IS a scary thing. ESPECIALLY when you’re not expecting it, or have never experienced one before. And long shakes (like yesterday’s 55 seconds) can be terrifying. I won’t diminish that. But some of the reactions? GOOD LORD:

– The Federal Government sent all workers in the DC region home for the day, less than an hour after the quake.  This created gridlock that lasted for 3 hours.  

– Schools are closed today.

– People fled their respective buildings (something you should NEVER do in an earthquake!) and REFUSED to come back in. ** Several of my tenants demanded that a city engineer come check out the building. Um, thanks, our building engineer can do that just fine.

That street, for reference, is 6 lanes wide, with a park right next to it – which was also full.

– People screamed and cried and wailed, and told me off. I’m sorry, I’m trying to reassure you, don’t bitch me out. My “favorites” were the woman who told me “I’m from California [she later mentioned she hadn’t been in California since she was 8 years old], that wasn’t even a 5.0. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” ***, the woman who screamed “It’s not an earthquake, it’s a BOMB!” in all seriousness, and the woman who, when I told her it was an earthquake****, and not to be worried snapped at me “How would YOU know?” I patiently explained to her that I’d grown up in SoCal and had been through many earthquakes, plus had already checked the building systems, and the USGS site. She responded “Well buildings here aren’t MADE to withstand earthquakes like your precious California. So SHUT UP.” and stopped off.


Alright, first off, any building built in the last 15 years is going to have to meet codes that will allow it to withstand an earthquake. While we may not have “rolling” and other foundations that meet the strict earthquake-zone codes, we’re not just building buildings that will come crashing down the first time they shake. Be smarter than this, people.

THAT shot was from the newspaper this morning. SERIOUSLY?

It’s all just ludicrous to me. I mean, really. YES, it was frightening, but grow up and get over it. The world is not ending, you are not traumatized, you can act like an adult. Educate yourselves, and maybe we can move on.

DC is a city that over-reacts to everything. OH GOD, 2 INCHES OF SNOW! CLOSE THE SCHOOLS AND BUY ALL THE TOILET PAPER!!! And really, I’m just sick of it.

Though the bars that did offer $5.80 happy hour specials are GENIUS.


* And now you know! Fancy learning stuff.

** The only exception here, for me, is the Pentagon. I have friends who work there, who have co-workers that were there on 9/11. Apparently the earthquake felt JUST LIKE the attack. I would have run, too. Not blaming them for a SECOND.

*** I saw her in the lobby later and said “Oh, by the way? They’re saying it was a 5.9.” (It wasn’t until later that it was downgraded to a 5.8.) Her eyes got huge, and she said “Wow, you’re good!” I’d pegged it at a 6.0 or slightly under.

**** The sheer number of times I had to answer the question “What was that?!” was hilarious. By 3 minutes after I was having to hold in my laughter. Basically, I’m a bitch. ::winks::


14 Comments to “Scaredy Cats”

  1. When I heard people were running out into the streets, I was like… does no one care enough to think about the power lines? I’m happy to find myself a nice door jam or duck, cover, and hold. Guess they don’t have drills in schools over there huh? lol

    • Even door jams are a bad idea now … they’re designed to collapse!

      But yes, while power lines are generally underground in this area, there ARE huge buildings. Hopefully the photos of bricks that crashed down from the tops of buildings will wisen people up a bit.

      I’m totally teaching a drill at our next Manager’s Meeting. Grade school level earthquake preparedness coming up!

      • About the door jams, seriously? I need to get me back to elementary school stat. (Maybe I can do a little spelling refresher while I’m there! Never did learn to spell all that well. *wink*)

  2. a lot of people thought it was a terrorist attack. it took some people a while to believe it was an earthquake…

    • Indeed. It makes me very, very sad that it’s a real worry. I am totally not faulting anyone for panicking when they thought it was an attack (see my note on the Pentagon). It’s the ones who knew it was an earthquake but kept flipping out that irritated me so much.

  3. In New York, I didn’t feel it at all, but we did get to evacuate the building for about an hour. Very strange…

    And I totally agree with you that even if something doesn’t really need to be scary, it can be. I had a professor who was in the Peace Corps in what was then Zaire, and when they had an unexpected full solar eclipse while she was there, people were screaming and generally feeling as though the sun would never come back. Without any electricity, she said that seeing the earth grow dark in the middle of the day was genuinely terrifying, even though she knew exactly what was going on. Interesting tidbits…

    • Oh totally. Like I said, I’m not going to diminish the fact that it WAS scary. My first earthquake scared the crap out of me. BUT, even as a child, I got over it pretty quickly. The fact that people were running screaming, and were sure the world was pretty much ending was a bit much for me.

  4. It just shows that we are trained to react to certain things in certain ways depending on where we are from. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do in an earthquake, though I would hope I wouldn’t become all crazed and irrational running about screaming and crying and saying crazy things to people (though I have been known to act like that on a generally bad day so who knows what a natural disaster would do to me.) It also shows that people, as a whole (especially in large groups) are scared panicky creatures.

    I have discovered that people who did not grow up in tornado prone areas react just as stupidly in the face of a tornado or even a tornado warning. In college in East Texas the sirens went off every Wednesday at noon just to test that they were working (which happens monthly even in bigger cities like Dallas). I never thought anything of it, having heard them my whole life. To me it was like an alarm clock “Ohh it is Wednesday at noon.” and nothing more. It wasn’t until the woman in the apartment next to mine came running out screaming that and freaking out that I realized they might not be normal to everyone. She was for sure there was a bomb of an attack or the world was imploding (I think she was from Seattle). Or the woman from Chicago who during an actual storm, with actual warning sirens going off, and funnels being sighted, went and stood out in a field to watch and see if she could see one. The worst part is she had her 6 year old with her. We had to drag her and the kid back inside and shove them in the bathroom and they just didn’t understand why it was dangerous if the funnel wasn’t on top of us (and no matter how many reports we showed her of cows landing 6 miles away from where the tornado picked them up, she would never believe that it was dangerous).

    • Hahahahah … oh, that was great! The funniest (and saddest) part was that there were actually people in my buiding acting like the “felt like” panels. ::shakes head::

  5. Thank you so much for writing this!!! I have been stifling my annoying-induced rage all day because it feels like ANY LITTLE THING on the east coast is news for the entire country and I just want them to shut up about some bricks that fell down. I’m sorry the earthquake scared you, East Coast, but … get over it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: