Growing up in Southern California, I had an early intro to earthquakes.

Earthquake Graphic

In school we always had drills, assuming those flimsy desks would protect us – especially since we weren’t taught at that time to hold on to the desks the way kids are taught today. Those desks would have simply bounced away from us in the shaking, leaving us completely unprotected or being attacked by furniture!

During my childhood I was periodically woken up by my bed shaking. When I was in junior high, I clearly remember my wooden bunk beds slamming up against the wall. Despite it being startling, I was never afraid. To me, it was always like an amusement park ride.

At my college, every science class brought their students behind the campus so we could all see the San Andreas fault. Looking back, it was cool to see the scar on the earth from the movement of the plates. I did not appreciate it at the time, however: It was hot and dirty, the wind was really messing up my hair. and I wanted to get back to the air conditioning. The experience was completely lost on me back then. I do not miss being 19!

Having grown up with them, I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about earthquakes. Last week I attended an informative lecture presented by Pat Abbott, a world renown expert in the field. I’m so glad CERT let me know it was happening.

Earthquake Lecture

Before this lecture I never understood that duration and intensity are tied together. The distance the quake is able to travel along a fault (and possibly jumping to another line) determines how severe it will be. Despite our reputation, California isn’t sitting on known fault lines that would cause a 9 earthquake rating. Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska are the only states where that is known to be possible.

Pat Abbott also gave a really good analogy about why the type of earthquake we had in LA twenty years ago was so damaging. I’d heard it had an up and down motion instead of our usual side to side. That wasn’t entirely accurate. Picture a jump robe with two people holding it at the ends. If you make the jump rope go up and down, those waves also move horizontally. That is what the Earth was doing!

So yes, everyone now knows I’m an earthquake geek as well. Some days I wonder why I didn’t find science cool back when I could have headed down that path. At least I’m smart enough now to appreciate it!

Have you ever experienced an earthquake? or When was the last time you learned something new about a subject you are quite familiar with?

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