On Breaking Resolutions and Awaiting Earthquakes

Earthquakeby Anniel1/27/16
My New Year’s Resolutions had to do with being happy – NO MATTER WHAT WAS HAPPENING. The lesson I thought I learned is that one should never tempt fate. The very end of 2015 and the first three weeks of 2016 have seen our household lurching from one crises to another: health, dental, financial, political, emotional, you name it. I told my husband, Bear, that I was starting to cry just hearing the telephone ring.

Then, about two weeks ago, I began expecting a large earthquake. I have never had a premonition of a quake coming before, and I have lived in this quake-prone area for over 50 years. Both Bear and I were in the Good Friday Earthquake of March 27, 1964, which was the largest
measured earthquake in North American history, and had a magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter Scale. It is considered one of only three or four measured “great” quakes.

Remember that each step on the Richter Scale increases the power of a quake by a factor of ten. Actually, I have NO higher math skills and Bear has been trying to explain the logarythmic progression of released power to me. I’m going to smack him in the nose next time he tells me it’s “simple.”

At any rate, I got so jittery with my premonition that all during an almost four-hour emergency stint in a dentist’s chair on December 30th I was gripping the arms of the chair and staring out the second-story window. I was trying to figure my trajectory if the quake occurred while I was there and I got ejected through the broken window.

I know you’ve all heard the stories about animals going nuts before an earthquake. Not at our house. We’d have a minor fender-bender, say around 5 point something, and our cat might look up sleepily for a moment, and immediately go back to sleep. For some reason rats don’t survive in Anchorage so none run squeaking from the sewers. We’ve never had a dog howl, either.

We went to bed a little late last Saturday night and I had just gone to sleep when I woke instantly at 1:30 a.m., Sunday, January 24th, and heard the rumble of a quake coming from the west. It was a noisy brute after that. A 2×4 plank slammed the floor downstairs, a large roasting pan hit the floor in the kitchen and rocking and rolling started in earnest, slowed for a bit and sort of built up again. I thought then that it would continue, but it soon stopped.

We never lost power, although several areas did. Our gas and water lines were all fine so we discussed what we thought the quake would measure and all that and settled down to sleep for awhile.

The first info we heard was that there were two quakes, the first one had a reading of 7.4 at a depth of 85 miles, followed two seconds later by the second one of 7.1, depth of 50 miles, both epicentered around Anchor River, about 125 miles west of Anchorage. So most of the damage was there.

By the time the news came out, Drudge reported the quake measured 6.8. It will probably be fine-tuned several times before the “official” score is in.

Bear got busy texting our kids that we were fine. Then our daughter in Chicago said the newspapers in India were reporting that “thousands” of people in Alaska had been killed and that others were being “evacuated.”
Uhh – Just WHERE would we be evacuated to? In all fairness, if a quake this large happened anywhere in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, or so many other places there would have been complete devastation. The Indian journalists wrote what they believed to be true.

Then there were the local folks and their comments. Oh my. One man posted that it was the “strongest” quake he had felt in the ten years he has lived here but he knew for a fact that we have had stronger ones. He said that in 2003 there had been one measured at 8.3. Well, yes, but it was out in the Aleutians, a thousand miles from here and the mainland never felt it. Alaska is a big place.

A woman posted on Facebook that her father was stationed here during the Good Friday Quake in 1964 and her mother and brothers had just left Sears when the whole building collapsed. Just one problem with her story. We had no Sears store in Anchorage then. The Sear’s Catalog was in common usage only for mail-order and outhouse purposes. This woman’s posting is how myths are born.

The only building that “collapsed” was the nine story Four Season’s Apartments being built on O Street. The builders had just left when the whole thing was flattened, so no one was hurt, but a lot was learned for future earthquake building codes. The apartment’s floors were constructed on the ground and then were “jacked-up” into place from the top floor down. All the floors and roof were in place and most of the interior bracing and walls were being finished when the quake hit. The place looked like a bomb had gone off. I don’t know if that type of building is permitted here anymore, if so there had to be major structural changes.

The new Chevrolet Dealership had some beams fall, and of course 4th Avenue and Turnagain were two of the hardest hit areas. The facade of the new Penney’s store fell off the building and crushed some cars, and one woman was killed there. But much was learned to make buildings safer.

Other cities and towns were harder hit than Anchorage. The epicenter of the Good Friday Quake was at College Fjord in Prince William Sound. Photos taken there after the quake show trees on the north side drowned under 20 feet of water, while on the south side of the Fjord the land and trees are raised way up out of the water. The face of the land in North America in many areas was deformed by the Quake. Some of the changes are still visible.

Well, back to the present.

Around noon last Sunday Bear realized our cat was missing. He spent a couple of hours searching and calling for her. Not so much as a peep was heard. He eventually found her holed up in a small area hidden under some stairs. She was so traumatized he couldn’t get her to even look at him, come out, or take any food. He put on some heavy gloves and finally pulled her out, but she’d get away and go right back to her hidey-hole. He finally managed to get her upstairs but she didn’t want anything to do with us. She must have thought we were really mad at her. It was two days before she even meowed, and this afternoon she is finally purring and letting us pet her.

Our son, who lives across town, said that his 7-year-old daughter freaked out completely and screamed her lungs out. She grabbed her dad around the neck almost choking him and was traumatized as badly as our cat. She’s afraid to be alone now.

Her 8-year-old brother, Gavin, just lay in bed reading the book from his night stand. When the quake was over and his dad asked if he was afraid, Gavin looked up and said, “No dad, I just held on to the mattress. Now that I’m 8 I don’t have to be afraid any more.” Then he calmly went right back to his reading. He came over with his dad yesterday and helped clean-up all our scattered possessions.

I look at my New Year’s resolutions differently now. I still have a responsibility to be cheerful, in spite of the ups and downs of life, but I can’t control everything. Some rain will fall, and quakes may come. Oh well.

BE IT NOW HEREBY RESOLVED, that because I’m a few years older than 8, I will emulate my brave grandson, strive to be happy, and keep my fears to myself.
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• The following is a clip from a security camera at my favorite store, the TrueValue about a mile from us. (Forgive me if the ads show up, I don’t know how to block them.) • (895 views)

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15 Responses to On Breaking Resolutions and Awaiting Earthquakes

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    We’ve had a few earthquakes in the area, but none close enough and big enough to cause damage here. At least one I didn’t even notice at all. Of course, if the New Madrid fault lets off another big one (as it did in a series of powerful quakes a couple of centuries ago), there’s no telling what will happen, but it probably wouldn’t be good.

  2. GHG says:

    Happy to hear you and your family are OK.

    • Anniel says:

      Mr. Lesser: How very special to hear from you again. I have worried about you. Yes, we are OK, but it did bring back a lot of memories for us. I hope you and yours are all well. God bless you.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    I am very glad to hear you and yours are doing fine.

    I had seen some photos of a grocery store after the quake, but the True Value clip is much more informative.

    I have experienced several earthquakes, but nothing like the one you just went through. I find it very interesting that you “felt” the thing coming several hours before it did.

    I also literally felt an earthquake coming in Tokyo. I had been out walking in the afternoon and went back to my hotel for a little rest. As I was resting on the bed, I got a funny shaking feeling in my stomach which made me feel a little nauseous. I thought that perhaps this was a reaction from my long walk when the hotel started shaking. The quake was not so strong, something over 5, but it was a strange feeling.

    At least I didn’t have food poisoning.

    • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

      I was on the 54th floor company restaurant of the Mitsui skyscraper near Shinjuku in Tokyo when a middling quake hit. Yikes, such swaying! Queasy stomach hardly describes it. At that level, they must be built to allow quite a bit of movement. I usually stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel near the Rainbow bridge, and when there was a quake, I never felt it.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I don’t know how old that building is, but for sometime now, they construct skyscrapers in Japan that can sway several feet in any direction. I also recall, modern buildings are built on some type of shock absorber system which reduces the effect of an earthquake on the building itself.

        They odd thing about my queasy stomach was that it happened a minute or so before the actual quake. Perhaps it was the ultra low frequency waves I was picking up before the thing hit.

  4. Anniel says:

    Timothy, Mr Lesser, KFZ and Tom, I think I have my equilibrium back now, but yes, that feeling of a quake can really be disconcerting. Just a few minutes ago we heard a loud crash from the kitchen. The cat wasn’t the only one who jumped, but it was a pan falling from a pantry shelf. We hadn’t noticed how close to the edge of the shelves some things were. They are all securely and neatly stacked again.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I occasionally hear minor crashes from elsewhere in the house. They don’t cause much of a concern because earthquakes are rare in Kentucky. And if the big one hits, it will probably be very obvious even a few hundred miles away. (Church bells rang in New York over the 1811-2 series.)

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Good Friday Quake in 1964

    Is that the quake which caused a tsunami is some Alaskan cove where the wave traveled up several hundred feet a mountain side?

    • Anniel says:

      Yes it was, and in Crescent City, California some folks decided to go down to the beach and watch the tsunami come in. I can’t remember how many were drowned or washed out to sea. The quake was so big that researchers claim the whole NA continent was lifted upwards several feet. Bear’s father in the Napa Valley came home to their Napa Valley Ranch about an hour after the quake and heard water running in the normally dry creek near the road. He walked to the small dam up the canyon and could see where the water had raised over the top of the dam and dropped down again. He always contended that the far-away quake included ground and water waves that spilled into the creek bed. I believe he was right.

  6. Rosalys says:

    I had been in a quake once, but never felt it. The only reason I know I was in one was because my son, about twelve at the time, was lying on his back, on the living room floor, playing video games. He said he felt the wave roll under him, and, “It was cool!” I was upright and walking and didn’t feel a thing. Later, on the news they reported that RI had experienced a very minor earthquake. We don’t get them much here in the northeast, although they tell us it’s possible.

    I’m very happy to hear that you have survived unscathed, and that your cat has recovered her emotional stability somewhat. Speaking of cats, quite often when something comes crashing down in our house it is the cat either trying to get our attention, or being overly curious about some object.

    • Anniel says:

      KFZ: Thanks for the article on the 1964 tsunami. We knew it was an undersea slide, but knowing where it occurred is indeed interesting.

      I’ve been looking at the photos of the devastation in Taiwan from yesterday’s quake, and wanted to make a couple of observations about that quake. It was pretty strong, but what made it so scary was that it was at such a shallow depth, only about 5 miles underground. I have seen nothing about the duration of the quake, and that can also be a factor in the damage.

      What I have always found interesting is how hit and miss quakes can be. In Taiwan a 17 story apartment building pancaked in on itself, but just a narrow strip away stands a brick building looking totally intact, no broken windows, bricks still in place, so what was the difference? Another street shot shows a row of shops looking totally fine, almost as though you could open the door and conduct business. Then suddenly a larger building right next door is tipped over into the street. Again, why?

      During the 1964 quake in Anchorage I had friends living in what was then called Chester Creek, which ran east-west in south Anchorage. They had only one cup fall off the table and couldn’t understand why they were hearing of so much damage, until they tried to go to church that Sunday. The earthquake we had the other day left everything intact all through the center of our home, but on the south side of the same rooms just about everything wound up on the floor. Is it just a product of the substrata contents, the meandering of the temblor waves, or something to do with construction. Darned if I know.

      In the 1964 quake I lived in one of the only two high rise, 14 story buildings in town. When I got to go in finally, there was my piano in the neighboring apartment, not a scratch on it and the figurine on a doily on top of it was standing serenely right where I had placed it. The wall it had gone through had a big hole showing all its innards, including what looked like chicken wire just hanging in pieces around the hole. I can’t explain how those things work. Mystifying.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This sort of hit-or-miss effect can come from tornadoes as well. In 1974 (when a series of tornadoes hit much of the country, including Louisville), a tornado hit a neighborhood where two friends lived. One’s house was wiped out, and took a year to rebuild. The other’s house was undamaged. (I didn’t even know about it until my mother got home from work, since the power had gone out and we were nowhere near the tornado’s path.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


        I checked with my friends in Taiwan and they were fine. Luckly, they live further south then Tainan.

        I agree with you that Mother Nature can be strange.

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