I experienced my first California earthquake this evening. At 8:08 this evening, PDT, while Jeff and I were in the middle of making dinner, the house shook a little and belongings rattled for somewhere around one to two seconds; it sounded and felt a little like a large truck going by, and not much more intense than the East Coast tremors I’ve experienced in Boston and DC.
Immediately I got on the computer (conveniently set up on the kitchen table at the moment) and checked the USGS site; sure enough, it recorded an earthquake about 76 km northwest of here (epicenter 3 miles west of Glen Ellen, California, between Napa and Sonoma) of uncertain magnitude. I fired up Google Earth, and it was showing the quake at somewhere between 4 and 5; by then (this was all still within the first three minutes after the quake), the USGS site had updated to show a 4.4 magnitude. The site asked me to give my impressions of the quake, so I dutifully entered my experience with my first quake—mild shaking, pictures mildly askew, items rattling, no damage, etc.—and it noted that mine was the first response from my area code, suggesting that my experience indicated an intensity of III on a I-X scale; within minutes there were hundreds of data points from others entering their experiences and now, just an hour and a half later, over 14,000 people have recorded their impressions of this mild quake. I think this must be a California pasttime.
I must confess that I was a little exhilirated by the quake, mild that it was. I’d been carrying around a low-level anxiety about earthquakes, nothing serious at the conscious level but creating some wild and uncomfortable dreams the past month. I said on several occasions that I wished we’d just go ahead and have a quake—a small one, I was always hasty to qualify—so I could get the experience under my belt, and put this nervous anticipatory uncertainty to rest.
Granted, this was a small one; even Alex seemed completely unfazed. I told him I was a little disappointed that he didn’t give us any warning, as the common wisdom, at least, is that animals have a heightened awareness of imminent seismic activity. He yawned. He’s just not earning his keep.
It’s been cool to be able to track information about the quake online in pretty much real-time. It’s especially neat to have tools like Google Earth to really help visualize the location and relative experience of it based on distance from the epicenter. I love the Internet.