Friday, April 18, 2008

Rockin 'n' Rollin in the Midwest

Things were shaky today for people in the Midwest. A 5.4 magnitude earthquake rumbled through a number states in the early morning hours, followed by a smaller aftershock several hours later.

From what I have read, the quake was felt as far away as Atlanta, Georgia. It was definitely felt by a friend of mine in Lexington, Kentucky. However, my mom who lives about 200 miles north of the quake area, didn't feel it. She was asleep like a lot of people at the time the the temblor rolled through. But something woke her at the time of the quake...probably it rolling through.

I remember my first "felt" quake. It was in 1968. At the time, I was working in an animal hospital on the south side of Chicago. The animals in the back room where I worked started acting strange, then the cage doors started rattling and I could feel a rumbling. I could almost hear something, but the critters in the place were making way too much noise for me to know for sure. Not long after that, one of the front office people came back to tell me there had been an earthquake.

Several years later, I was in the Air Force, stationed in extremely seismically active, Alaska. My first quake there was an interesting one. I was at an off-base mobile home where myself and two co-workers lived to get away from the barracks life. I had just come back from a dental appointment, and sat down in a swivel-rocker to read my mail. The noon newscast was just beginning and suddenly, I saw the announcer dive under his desk. A split second later, just after I had opened a letter from a friend in Ohio, my chair started swiveling and rocking on its own. Then it was over. I looked around and then looked at the television screen and had to laugh. The announcer had poked his head up over the edge, looked around, then got back in his chair and said, "If you don't know, the Anchorage area has just experienced an earthquake. More on that as it comes in."

Several months later, during the early morning and I was out on the tarmac refueling a C-141 Starlifter. At the time, I was watching a distance aircraft in the landing pattern. Suddenly, I started swaying side-to-side and I looked towards the control tower. I couldn't see it moving, but I could see ripples in the runway. I looked again at the aircraft in the pattern and it was still coming in. When I went back to our dispatch office, I was told there had been an earthquake.

There were a few more minor rockers during my time there, but after I left Alaska, I didn't experience another earthquake until I was reassigned from Texas to northern Italy. Prior to my arrival there, there had been a series of quakes which brought devastation to a number of towns and I was heading into the area of the worst damage. After my arrival, things were rather quiet. The area was being cleaned up and life was returning to normal. Then another quake rolled through. This quake occurred early in the morning as most of us slept. However, it woke everyone in the barracks. I know, because as soon as it finished, the entire building was heard to say, "Holy shit...did you feel that?" Then a line formed at the urinals.

For me, that quake was interesting. I woke just before the shaking began. At that time, one side of my bed was up against a wall. Hanging on the wall, right above where my crotch area was (and still is), was a 4-point, mounted deer head I got in Texas. As soon as the shaking started, I looked up at the mount and said, "Don't fall...Don't fall," over and over. It didn't fall, but it did get moved to a different part of my section of the barracks room.

Later in the morning, I was at work and was being interviewed by a radio announcer from the Southern European Network, a division of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, in Vicenza, Italy, about 100 miles south of Aviano, where I was. I recall the announcer asking me what the morning quake was like and as soon as he finished, an aftershock hit. I had just reached for my little, yellow plastic coffee cup and couldn't immediately figure out why it kept moving just out of my reach. Then it hit me...EARTHQUAKE! I stood up and looked at my supervisor who was rushing out of the office and was frozen with what I was seeing.

I worked in a cinder block building and the wall I was staring at, was painted cinder block. I was watching waves move through the cinder blocks. I could see them actually bending and not crumbling...and I couldn't figure it out. Then the shaking stopped and slowly made my way outside the building. The entire cast of characters who worked in the headquarters for the 40th Tactical Group was out there. I was the last to leave the building. About 30 minutes later when engineers had given the building an okay for occupancy, we were allowed back in. More rumblers moved through the region in the days which followed, but none like that one.

I didn't feel anymore earthquakes until I was reassigned to Anchorage, Alaska in 1983. I hadn't been on base for more than two weeks, when a very strong, quick quake occurred. I was just walking into my office when it hit and almost as quickly, finished. When I entered the office, I saw the person I was replacing halfway out the window of the building. He had a mortal fear of quakes and would do anything to avoid them, including jumping out of a third floor office window to make sure the building didn't collapse on him. But the quake finished before he could leap, and he was spared the consequences of what might have happened on landing.

It was in Alaska, where something really strange happened regarding an earthquake. It was a year or so after I had arrived there. I was in a new job as the community relations advisor for the base. I was sitting at my desk in the office I shared with our media relations NCO, when I felt dizzy and put my head down. My office mate noticed something strange with me and asked if I was okay. I looked up at him and said, "In 24 hours, we will have a 5.2 earthquake," and I went back to work on some paperwork. The NCO with me, shook his head and went back to what he was doing. This took place at 3 pm.

The next day at 2:58 pm, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit. I had missed it by two minutes and two degrees of magnitude. However, soon as it finished, the person in the office with me gathered some notebooks, forms and pens and walked out. He went to another of the offices and told everyone what had happened. For the next several minutes, people would walk by my office and look inside at me, then walk away. The person in the office with me during that incident, refused to work with me after that. Our office areas were rearranged and I was considered a really strange person by everyone. Sorry, Tom. I didn't mean to upset you.

After I left Alaska, I felt minor quakes in Honduras while I was on temporary assignment there. None of them were big, just little shakers everyone laughed at. But in the summer of 1990, I was in The Philippines. On a nice July day, I worked a little late in the office and when I finished, went out to the bus stop to await transportation to my barracks. As I stood there talking to two Filipina women, a quake hit. It was so strong, and so long, it actually knocked me on my ass and began bouncing me around. As I sat on the roadway acting like a rubber ball with the quake, I recall looking towards our legal building across the street. It was a cinder block building and again, I could see waves moving through the cinder blocks.

As soon at that quake was finished, I got up, brushed myself off and went right back to my office. As I entered the front part of the office, my boss was walking through the door. He looked at me and said, "Where did you come from?" I told him I was at the bus stop when it hit and then the phone rang...and rang...and rang...and rang. It didn't stop ringing for several hours. By that time, several coworkers were in helping out and I was sent to the command post to help coordinate things there and answer media queries during the night hours. I worked the night hours there for six days before things returned to normal.

That quake was a doozy. It registered 7.8 on the Richter Scale and produced thousands of minor aftershocks. And personally, I believe it was the beginning of the end for Clark AB, as less than a year later, Mt. Pinatubo erupted and destroyed most of the base.

I haven't felt another quake since I left The Philippines in November 1990. However, in 1994, I was on the Oregon coast with my nephew. We were talking and walking along the shoreline when he asked me something. I don't remember his question, but I remember my answer. I looked at him and said, "I could tell you in two hours, California will be hit by one hell of an earthquake...but you wouldn't believe me." Two hours or so later, California was devastated by the Northridge Earthquake.

These days, I keep my thoughts to myself and hope someday to feel the frantic rumblings of a quake again. After all, they are Mother Nature's roller coaster rides.

2 comments:

Lilli & Nevada said...

Now that is an amazing insight. I have yet to feel an earthquake and don't ever want too. Although yesterday the news said there was one on Mt Hood.
My yahoo member over at the coast said they had snow. No snow here even though they said it was.
Have a beautiful day in Central Oregon LOL

Misty Dawn said...

You were bouncing around the road like a rubber ball? (hehehe - 'scuse me for giggling Bear, but that puts a funny picture in my head).

A year or two years ago, we felt things rumbling around. Later, when we turned on the news, we couldn't help but laugh because the epicenter was our town in Ohio. It was just weird hearing them say the name of our itty-bitty town on the news. But, it wasn't much of a quake.

I slept right through the one yesterday (but you already knew that).

(P.S. remind me next time we chat that we need to discuss word verification and the removal of hehe)