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Disaster Preparation Series 08: Earthquake
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Disaster Preparation Series 08: Earthquake

When the earth moves, sending ripples across the surface of the earth like waves on the sea, devastation often follows. When I was very young I was playing on the kitchen floor when the house shook and dishes and glasses tumbled out of the cupboard and crashed to the floor. My grandmother was still alive so I was probably about four or five years old. That was my first experience with a shaking earth.

After I returned from the Korean War and attended the University of Utah, our geology professor toured us around areas in the Salt Lake Valley. It is a great place to study geology because the mountains expose Precambrian rock, the oldest rock, and the newest geologic formations. Volcanic activity, glacial activity, earthquake scars and glide planes, etc., are also easily accessible.

The shorelines of the ancient Lake Bonneville are easily observed as you follow I-15. She can see the various levels of the lake before it broke lose at Red Rock Pass and shot down the Snake River where I live, tossing car sized boulders here and there and I assume scaring the heck out of the local Indians and critters. Rounded boulders are here from the size of pumpkins to several feet in diameter. They are all over the place.

Our professor said that the Salt Lake City and County building was on an ancient river delta composed of sand and gravel. He said that the predicted earthquake along the Wasatch fault could bring it down. This concerned me because that is where my father worked. The city has spent millions of dollars trying to shore up the building over the years. The bottom floor has gradually disappeared into the earth as the building continues to settle into its unstable foundation.

I researched my earthquake. It was not large enough to be recorded. But we have a history of great earthquakes in the western United States. I went to work in the Los Angeles area in 1974. My fellow employees told me how they had to drive miles out of their way to get the to work because the Interstate had been clobbered. Some told me what it was like as they drove on I-5 during the earthquake. Scary!

We lived in Valencia near the Famous Magic Mountain fun park. My neighbors kids had slept with their parents since the earthquake. One neighbor told me her child said, “Look, Daddy! Our house is moving.” Well, our houses did move with an earthquake. They were designed to do just that. If you looked at the construction you would think that some amateur carpenter build the house. Structures were made to move.

When my son-in-law was going to medical school at Southern California University, a major earthquake hit the Pasadena area sending my daughter and her kids under the kitchen table. You could see the damage in the neighborhood as you walked around. The California earthquakes are usually along the San Andreas fault line west of which some think will someday slide into the ocean.

One concern in Southern California is a nuclear plant near the fault line. We could have another Japanese situation. Will any one defuse that situation?

Studying the earthquake escarpments in Utah showed me how much the earth can drop. This was demonstrated in the Chile and Alaska earthquakes as well as most other earthquakes. It is amazing how unstable our earth is. Fire is often part of the earthquake scene as demonstrated in the San Francisco quake in 1906. And then then there is the tsunami waves that have caused devastation after two earthquakes in the Pacific in recent years.

My neighbors here in Idaho were hunting elk in 1983 and were isolated for several days by the earthquake as the roads were damaged. I have been up in that areas and I saw the earthquake scars at Mount Borah. There are lots of new springs in the areas convenient to thirsty grazing cattle. This is a common occurrence and has happened in Utah often.

Nevada has more earthquakes than any other state. There are only two large cities so there is little loss of life. The Echo earthquake a couple of years ago shook our house here in Idaho. Reno was threatened with quakes just last year. The St Louis fault is a major concern in the Midwest, but there is no place on this globe that is earthquake exempt. New York City is on bedrock but that does not guarantee they will not someday suffer from an earthquake.

Erupting volcanoes can have associated earthquakes. Things that bump in the night.

The largest death-dealing earthquake was in China in 1976 which killed over 650,000 people in Tientsin Province. Heavy death tolls occur in urban areas where folks live in stone building. Turkey is a sad example where too many die in earthquakes. When I look at the Haitian earthquake, I think one thing I would have on had if I lived under such conditions would be a sturdy jack which I could use to raise concrete slabs and metal construction supports. That would make since to me. I would also have a well equipped first aid kit, flashlights, food and water plus essential medications and perhaps an emergency kit in the car.

Don't forget a tent for temporary shelter and blankets to keep warm.

How about a rope or rope ladder?

Fly Old Glory!


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