Earthquakes and Natural Disasters

Earthquake Memories Part 1

Tomorrow is the 20th Anniversary of the m6.9 Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area at 5:04pm on 10-17-89. This approaching anniversary has made me reflect on that day a lot and spend a lot of time watching old broadcasts on YouTube. It also has me thinking about all the big quakes I have felt in my life. Using the Club Josh Daily Update and the USGS as references, I have determined the top 5 quakes I have felt (plus a bonus). They are:

1 – m7.1 Hector Mine (10-16-99) – 10 years ago today I felt my largest quake. I had just relocated to Southern California a few months prior and this was my first quake felt in Studio City. I remember it was around 2am, and it woke me up. It was a good shaker, despite being so far away. This is one of the few quakes I have actually dived under a table for.

2 – m6.9 Loma Prieta (10-17-89)- More on this tomorrow on the 20th anniversary. Needless to say, I was in a seat at Candlestick Park waiting the start of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.

3 – m6.6 Mid-Niigata Prefecture Japan (10-24-04) – My first international quake was a big one. Daniel and I were at the Hotel Kazusaya in Tokyo’s Nihombashi district. We had just gotten back to our room after a day out and were trying to decide what to do in the evening. Literally as I sat down on the bed and Daniel went into the bathroom, our whole hotel room started to shake. This shaker lasted quite a long time. A few minutes later it started again. We went downstairs to make sure everything was OK and then headed back up to the room to turn on the TV. Japan has a cool system for earthquakes. Within minutes, all the main channels have a map of where the quake is and then the perceptive magnitude (like the Mercalli scale back home). This quake had at least 3 m6.0+ aftershocks, but they are not counted separately even though they are still some of the largest quakes I have felt.

4 – m6.6 San Simeon (12-24-03) – The Christmas Eve Quake was all the way up in Central California, but it was enough to give me a few mile S wave rolls down in Orange County. I was actually surprised that I felt this one..

5 – m6.1 Palm Springs (7-8-86) – I was at my grandpa’s house in West Covina on a bed with rollers on a wooden floor. When the quake started shaking, the bed started to move across the room and really scared me. I remember all through the night that this one cabinet with glass doors would keep vibrating every time there was an aftershock. This added to the sense of fear and dread that I had all night.

Excluding aftershocks of the quakes above, the rest were below 6.0, with the largest being the m5.5 Chino Hills quake (7-29-08). I was thankfully at home in bed so I could immediately go on the USGS site and see what was going on with the quake. My closeness to the epicenter led to a stronger P wave than I was used to, but other than some minor objects being moved on shelves, everything else was OK. The m5.2 Big Bear quake of 2-22-03 was notable because it struck as I was leaving my house on my way to work at Disneyland and I felt it and got to listen to live team coverage on the radio on the way to work. That quake was also part of my blog post chronicling my day where I was up for 24 hours.

There are also several large California quakes I did not feel due to my location in the state (I was in Davis during the m6.7 Northridge, m7.3 Landers, and m6.5 Big Bear quakes of the early ’90s). I was in Woodand on a Geography 102 field trip during the m7.2 Cape Mendocino quake, but still did not feel it..

Tomorrow I will write an in-depth post about what happened to me that fateful October day in 1989, including what led to me being where I was at the time of the quake, and the epic journey home.