Word Smith: Quake


Aspen – Quaking

Trees that grow as a root system in the mountains of the West.  Among the largest plants in the world.


Quaker Traditions


The non-violence movements in the US and abroad have a long history, going back to the Quakers of Pennsylvania and other Eastern seaboard states.


Earth Movements – Quakes

With the prospects of three daughters living in the Bay Area, and the prevalence of the earthquakes in the region, we have some new-found worries for their safety.  It is not without basis, as there have been some vicious earthquakes over the years, two of them worth remembering struck in California when I lived there.


The first temblor was as a visitor to Yosemite in 1990.  My wife, Tracy, and I had been visiting Yosemite, hiking to see Vernal and Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and the Tuolumne River, then dining at the Awanee Hotel and spending the nights “camping” in Curry Cabins in the Village. Our accommodations were spartan: two government issue cots, a dresser, wood plank flooring, and wooden 2″x 4″ framing with canvass sides and roof. The “bear” canister and black bear warnings were everywhere, so the biggest threat was from the omnivores around us. We had not anticipated a shake.

glacier point half dome

The last evening, we packed our bags for our return trip to the San Francisco Airport and fell asleep at 10pm.  At about 2am the next morning, we felt this violent shaking and we heard a low thumping, rumbling sound.  Our cabin was like a box on a marble, as it teetered in various directions with alternating intensity. Still pretty groggy, I fell back to sleep, but Tracy shot out of bed: “What is that?” She demanded an answer. When I told her it was an earthquake and to go back to bed, she protested. “Shouldn’t we go to the Ranger Station or the Yosemite Lodge or something?” I assured her that there was nothing they could do for us and to get some sleep. Still she persisted urging me to investigate with the rangers. Good call!


Arriving at the Yosemite Lodge I learned that there had been a 5.8 magnitude quake whose center was in the small town of Lee Vining, Nevada. The quake had been violent enough to send rock slides in a 100 mile radius of the epicenter. All but one of the four exits into and out of Yosemite were covered and impassible, due to boulders, rock slides and debris. This quake was on October 25, 1990. We were in a hurry to get back to Baltimore. I had to return to work and we had to relieve our departing childcare friend, who had to work as well. We felt some affinity with others who lived in earthquake country, learning to be flexible and not too attached to things. We figured out that if we left by 4:00am we could make that flight out of SFO, with our Fresno detour only delaying us by a few hours. We took off early and just made it.


Another quake was in Los Angeles, which hit in a very different fashion. That one struck in the middle of the night also. The earth spasm made the hotel shake rattle and roll. The hotel inner core girders rumbled with each shock and after shock. Looking out the sliding glass doors of our balcony, the water in the first-floor swimming pool sloshed a few feet above the walls of the pool forward and backward with each earth movement. There appeared to be a series fire works that were going off in the distance. Soon we realized that those were electrical transformers on light poles that were exploding all over the place, in cadence with the quake’s different shocks. We walked down the stairs to the lobby and the singer, Kenny Rogers, was sitting there in his night shirt. Rogers had been the guest performer at the convention we attended, and he was stranded, just as the rest of us were.  It was surreal.


Quakes are no joke. They causes rifts of severe magnitude.  We can certainly wait in Oregon, as the sliding plates in the Cascadia-Subduction Zone. When a 5.8 magnitude quake hit off Newport on June 1, 2015, we had our worries, but it appears to have been a false alarm: http://koin.com/2015/06/01/strong-earthquake-strikes-off-oregon-coast/

The big one will have to wait…

earthquake (1)

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