This is California: Earthquakes

“I have thought of relocating, somewhere where I’d be more appreciated.
California, perhaps. I could teach earthquake preparedness.”*

 Anna, most of coastal California is earthquake country and until you have experienced your first quake you have no idea what this means. The potential for a devastating earthquake profoundly affects the consciousness of everyone who lives here. We all know that at any moment life could come to a screeching halt. Roadways, water, gas, communications, financial services and every other system that makes life work could immediately come to an end. Besides that, your house could fall on your head. Except for the very center, Los Angeles is a flat city. Most of the buildings are single stories, some are two story and just a few rise over three stories. This, of course, means that the city spreads out for miles. You know know how much I drive. Everything is miles apart and so Los Angeles sports a vast freeway system. In this part of the world you live in two places, your home or your car. “Around here you have to love what you drive” is the motto for Mercedes in California. It is true.

I experienced my first California quake just a few months after arriving in Los Angeles. I was sitting in my study when suddenly I felt deep thunder beneath my feet. Instead of thunder from the sky it was thunder from the ground. The walls shook and kitchen pots fell from their shelves. I was picked up by a wave and tossed across the room. All this happened in the blinking of an eye, and then it was over almost before it had started. My heart was pounding. At first I had no idea what had happen, then I realized it was an earthquake. Later I learned that this was just a minor quake. Oh my God! What would a major one be like? Since this time I have experienced many larger quakes. I have seen high voltage electrical lines swing and collide in the dark. It is a spectacular sight! I have watched my car thrown up and down on its suspension system. I have seen concrete walls twisting like rubber bands and I have seen whole freeway bridges tossed into canyons. Surprisingly, few homes are ever destroyed in California earthquakes. Almost all houses are of wood and wooden building rarely collapse. They just bend and shake! Overall california fairs well in an earthquake because of its strictly enforced building codes. But in spite of this Anna, I am always ready to run outside at a seconds notice. When I feel that thunder I am ready to run. No one sleeps naked here. This is life in California.


*Wesley Strick, U.S. screenwriter.

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