Friday, July 20, 2007

'What the fuck was that?'

The answer to my question, asked just before five o'clock this morning, was a "light" earthquake of magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale. Not a big one, and certainly not the big one, but it was the first I have ever felt and large enough to wake me with a violent jolt - like a brute kicking my bed so hard it shook the entire house.

Every earthquake feels different I'm told, and this one seemed more severe as it happened very close by. The epicentre was just a mile away from where I was trying to sleep in Oakland and, when the real focal point of the action (the hypocentre) is about four miles underground, that short distance on the surface doesn't mean much at all.

(The best comparison I can make is the difference between hearing the low rumble of thunder at a distance of a few miles, and the sound of lightning ripping the air apart just a couple of hundred feet away from you.)

This wasn't a good time to leap out of bed and realise that my dressing gown was still out of action due to an earlier biohazard incident (the dog's fault, not mine). Just a reminder then that I'm living here in unstable times, or at the very least on shaky ground, and that I really need to sort out a disaster kit.

Of course, what's truly terrifying is that the recent 6.8 earthquake in Japan was more than a hundred times stronger than the one I felt this morning. The comforting fact is even that one didn't cause a major disaster.

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