Shake it off
“Did you feel it??” friends were shrieking, on social media, email and through the phone. “Earthquake!!”
“They said it was a 5.1!!”
“It knocked over three of Momma’s Hummells and the Barney won’t come out from under the bed!”
Look, you amateurs, calm down. I might have felt something, but I gotta tell ya, after living through numerous quakes in Los Angeles, I don’t get out of bed to pee for anything under a 6.5 (and that would probably be because I’ve already wet the bed). You know you’ve had a big one (quake) when you witness the following: every item in every cabinet and, surprisingly, drawer, is now on the kitchen floor… A plethora of broken glass is everywhere (unless, like Paul and me, you embarrassingly realize none of your stemware is breakable), and finally, every car alarm within 100 miles is blaring.
Scout’s honor, after that Northridge quake of 1994 my neighbor’s parrot began mimicking the car alarm belonging to his owner’s Lexus. All damn day long.
There’s no way to know if that recent quake was any sort of precursor, but let’s do a little research, because we had one colossal quake in Charleston in the late 19th century and it’s been reported that we are overdue.
Before you pack up and evacuate, there’s really very few states that don’t have fault lines, so you might as well stay where you are. In fact, according to Wikipedia, South Carolina experiences 10-15 quakes each year that you don’t even notice as they’re under a three.
But we’ve had quakes forever— a quick glance at our Appalachians confirm that. It’s just that ours are far more random and difficult to predict where they might blow because, unlike California, whose San Andreas follows a repeat pattern, our faults are all over the place—not to mention being buried beneath miles of sand and sediment.
One can actually see the San Andreas fault. We Carolinians haven’t a clue what’s going on beneath us and when the US Geological Survey updated their earthquake hazard maps a couple of years ago the news wasn’t unexpected: Charleston is in the bullseye and there is “a relatively high risk of a damaging quake sometime within 50 years.” So, you probably have time to get in some canned goods.
The good news is we’re far more prepared than those who went through the 7.3 (which was 22 times more violent than the one we just had) in 1886. Charleston was still brushing off the effects of a hurricane when that monster hit at nearly 10:00 p.m. on the night of August 31st. And yes, it was devastating.
Now, our homes are stronger and our infrastructure is….oh, OK, well, our homes are a lot stronger. And that’s a good thing because that’s where experts say you need to stay. Running outside will only result in being squashed when your neighbor’s chimney collapses. Power lines may come down and unstable walls may fall over. Just remember what we learned in school: Stop, Drop and Roll! Wait, that’s for fires…Duck and Cover! Sorry, my bad, that was to protect us from a Soviet nuclear attack (not based on science).
Maybe just do what your Aunty Pam did during that 6.7 temblor in Los Angeles: grab your cat, put a pillow over your head and hang onto your bed post as you ride that sucker out like a scene from Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
And for the love of Pete, before it hits, disconnect the alarm in your car.