Michael Ellis

Two weeks ago I had just dropped off to sleep when the house began shaking violently. I leaped up and thought “This is it the big one!” When it finally stopped I called out to my son. “I’m OK.” Then all three of us, the two cats and the big dog went immediately outside, away from the house, to wait for aftershocks. None came but we heard a very loud muffled explosion. I thought that propane tanks were exploding. I had visions of Algeria, Kobe, Loma Prieta, Turkey and economic catastrophe.

I am always prepared – plenty of water, cooking fuel, canned food. I am a regular boy scout when it comes to this stuff. We went inside. Our power was still on… good sign I thought… and we turned on the radio. Not one word about the quake on any station, even the ones in Santa Rosa. That’s when I realized that our seismic event was very very local. The world was going on as if nothing had happened.

My wife was soon on her computer checking the USGS Earthquakes Hazard Program for Northern California and there it was — our earthquake. A quick look at the map showed the epicenter was only a quarter mile from our house and it was a 4.3 on the Richter scale. As more data arrived we saw an aftershock listed. That is when we noticed a disclaimer at the bottom of the page – “This data not reviewed by a human.”

WOW. Was I impressed? All the information from seismic stations all over California and the world was automatically being processed, analyzed, interpreted and then the facts about the quake posted within minutes on a website available for public perusal. This is fantastic use of technology and taxpayers money. Go USGS!

When we first bought our old house we spent an obscene amount of money rebuilding the foundations and earthquake proofing it. When it was finally done with absolutely nothing visible to show for all that money, our contractor jokingly but truthfully said now maybe when the big one hits you will have time to get out of your house before it collapses.

This night I realized it was worth the cost. And the big explosion? It apparently came from inside the earth – a stomach rumble.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.



Posted on

November 7, 2010