Honey, Wake Up. We’re Having An Earthquake!


Doppler and I were peacefully napping on the sofa when Helaine took to her feet.

“Honey, wake up. We’re having an earthquake.”

I opened my eyes and stared down at the couch’s fabric a few inches from my nose. The house was shaking.

5.1 earthquake in La Habra! My earthquake map says 19 miles from here.

Screenshot_2014-03-28-21-28-16KCAL 9 news was on. Within a few seconds they were in quake mode. A live seismograph jiggled across the screen.

Much like a bell that had been rung, SoCal was still shaking. It wasn’t strong enough to feel by this time, but more than enough to measure. The quake’s movement covered the entire graph.

Rides at Disneyland have been stopped. The LA subway and other rail lines have slowed down to inspect tracks. Choppers are flying over a water main, now flooding a La Habra intersection.

Tonight’s quake was actually a swarm of quakes. There were at least 10 greater than magnitude 2.0, a few stronger than a 3. We felt a few, though none as strongly as what happened at 9:09 PM PDT.

seismo plotStef felt it in Hollywood too. She had just hung something on the wall and was staring at it as it began to shake.

Back on TV, KCAL went to a live shot from a restaurant here in Orange County. There were broken bottles on the floor, but normal activity had already resumed. Californians have been through this before.

So, this is what it’s like.

Doppler slept.

Two Thirds Of The Fox Family Felt The Quake

FireShot-Screen-Capture-#002---'Google-Maps'---www_google_com_maps_@34_134916,-118_48597,3a,75y,27_3h,90t_data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1smimYdJKZc1uXvgSr660hcg!2e0There was an earthquake this morning. It came at 6:25:36 AM PDT. Helaine felt it. Stef felt it. Geoff slept!

It’s the first time in my life I can look at an epicenter and say, “I know where that is.” The plots put it just off Sepulveda, on the Valley side of Mullholland, overlooking Sherman Oaks and Encino in a beautiful area of expensive homes.

Helaine was awake. She knew what it was immediately and noted the time.

“The bed shook and the before it stopped shaking stuff started shaking on your nightstand.”

That’s at a distance of 53 miles.

Up in Hollywood and 45 miles closer to the epicenter, Stef was answering Roxie’s call for food. As they sat on the bed her ci15476961_ciim_geobuilding started to sway like one of those air powered attention getters that sit outside stores&#185.

Buildings are supposed to sway. It’s sway or snap! All modern buildings here are designed that way. That’s why a 4.4 quake did virtually no damage.

In the ’94 Northridge quake there were reports of liquefaction, where the ground temporarily acts like a liquid. None today. No major landslides either. That’s a big worry in areas that have had recent fires.

Earthquakes are a way of life in California. We live over a subduction zone. There is a constant buildup of pressure as the Earth’s crust bends, then breaks. The mythical “big one” will unleash hundreds, maybe thousands, of times the energy this little shake produced.

There are limits to our preparation.

&#185 – The closest I can find to their actual name is “wacky inflatable flailing arm advertising men.”

I Follow Quakes

There was an earthquake just north of Puerto Rico twenty minutes ago. It’s likely any damage will be minimal with no tsunami. Just like weather and other sci/tech pursuits, I follow quakes.

EarthquakesOur government, the USGS specifically, does an excellent job analyzing the data and quickly posting the results. It’s mostly an automated process, so even on a Sunday evening there’s no wait.

On the left is their front page link to the Puerto Rico quake. There are two entries because the original report was revised.

Each quake gets its own series of webpages. The first page contains a map pinpointing where the quake happened, plus an academic description of local seismology. This one got, “Seismotectonics of the Caribbean Region and Vicinity.” Riveting prose.

More useful on an immediate basis are the DFYI and PAGER pages.

usc000m1w9_ciimDFYI (Did You Feel It) is an Internet derived ‘shake report.’ Regular folks try to quantify their experience. It’s very insightful when plotted on a map.

Most felt the shaking was light.

PAGER estimates the damage based on all the available data. Computer modeling at work. An educated guess. Tonight, it’s overdone. San Juan felt light shaking. PAGER says strong.

PAGER also predicts up to 10 deaths. Hopefully that’s overdone too.

My Earthquake-Tsunami Explainer

No TV station for me now, but I do have a webcam and some editing software. Video production has been democratized!

When the earthquake struck Japan last week I missed being on-the-air where I could add a little context to what you were seeing. Meteorologists are usually treated as the station scientist. That was a role I embraced and enjoyed.

No TV station for me now, but I do have a webcam and some editing software. Video production has been democratized!

This little presentation isn’t as sophisticated as what I would have been able to do with the better equipment and more highly skilled folks I worked with for years. Hopefully it will give you a better understanding of what happened.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Click the test pattern to play the video.

Oops: I said Thursday March 11, but meant Friday March 11. Please excuse the error.

[jwplayer image=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/bars_000000.jpeg” mediaid=”9171″]

It’s Shaking In Ocotillo

News spreads quickly in the 21st Century. Word was coming in from my friend Farrell vacationing at his home in Palm Springs. He’s close enough to feel the quake, but not close enough to be adversely affected.

It’s a quiet night in Ocotillo, CA. Well after dark it’s still in the 90s and bone dry. If you’ve never heard of Ocotillo before don’t feel bad. Few have. It’s a tiny desert outpost near the Mexican border in Imperial County.

Thanks to Google’s Street View you can see what it looks like during the day. Not much!

Nothing important happens in Ocotillo. Tonight was no exception. Nothing happened in town. The action was 5 miles southeast of Ocotillo and 4.3 miles underground! It happened at 9:26 PDT.


That text came to me less than two minutes later. News spreads quickly in the 21st Century.

The word was coming in from my friend Farrell vacationing at his home in Palm Springs. He’s close enough to feel the quake, but not close enough to be adversely affected.

Where? Feel it?
Here. 10 seconds Just felt aftershock.

I scrambled to the USGS earthquake site. They’re very good with automated info quickly then geologist screened updates later. There was nothing.

Not on USGS yet
I know. Weird. The original made enough noise where we heard the trees shake.

By this time I was scouring raw data looking for something that might not yet have bubbled to the quake reports. I found the coded data and entered the latitude/longitude pair into Google maps. It wasn’t a place I recognized.

5.9 near Mexican border 5 mi SE Ocotillo
USGS report is misleading. We felt it hard. Where’s that?
Near Mexican border. 5.9 is significant
Very much. It’s less than an hour from us.
Near Brawley

The info flow was getting thicker. The USGS shake map was starting to fill showing light reports from the Los Angeles area and more substantial rocking on the US/Mexico border.

In San Diego the Padres game was halted for a moment to allow the stands to stop shaking.

Back in Palm Springs Farrell had made the decision this rumble wasn’t going to be his problem.

So we just celebrated. Opened a bottle of Spanish Rose’
Shaken not stirred.

He’s sent a few more texts since the first. Aftershocks have come, gone and been felt in Palm Springs as the Earth tries to adjust to new pressures built by this upheaval. This is not the big one!

Tomorrow on the news we’ll look at video from the Padres game or some fixed surveillance camera trained on falling canned goods and this quake will fade into history.

Nowadays news travels fast and burns quickly.