Friday, April 18, 2008

It's the Wabash's Fault

I probably shouldn't be giggly about this, but all "firsts" have a whiff of thrill. First day of school, first kiss, first warm day of spring... first earthquake.

At 5:26am, Lou was awakened from a bad dream (good timing!) by a feeling that can be best described as the optimal motion for Jiffy-Pop popping: a firm but smooth sliding back and forth with a tremble up and down. My bedroom sits atop my cellar, and therefore my hot water heater and my furnace. My first thoughts were:

Oh my God, something down there is getting ready to blow! In a few seconds, I will be propelled by a geyser of boiling water through the roof, atop my bed, like something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

The most surprising thing to me was how long the earthquake lasted. Later it dawned on me that if that had been a BIG earthquake, that's a long damned time to feel terrified. News articles don't say how long the tremor lasted, but it lasted long enough for me to wake up, sit up, have the aforementioned thought, have a subsequent thought that I might be imagining the whole thing because it was so quiet, break the silence by calling out plaintively to my roommate: "Roommate??", listen to his response: "Yeah, I don't know what it is either...." and then some.

That's a long damned time, folks.

Anyway, today's earthquake was the strongest in 40 years and the second strongest on record for the region. Damage sustained by the 5.2 earthquake was relatively minimal, although a downtown Louisville building lost bricks, as you can see above. The Wabash Valley Fault, the fault allegedly responsible for the quake, is an offshoot of the New Madrid Fault; the epicenter of the quake was in S. Illinois, but tremors from this quake were felt as far south as Florida. I know... it doesn't make a lick of sense to me either... geology is weird. But here's an explanation from

"Pretty typically for these eastern-central U.S. earthquakes, they're felt over a very broad area," said Dave Applegate, USGS senior science adviser, adding that quakes in California tend to be more localized. "The Earth's crust is older and less fractured in the Midwest than in California, and the region's deep sediment "shakes a lot," Applegate said. "Older crust, when you have an earthquake, it rings like a bell."

My favorite part of the article is that they interviewed George Noory in St. Louis, the host of the radio show Coast-to-Coast, who said: "Everything shook...I thought the building was going to collapse." And I thought, Oh come on, George, that was probably the LAST thing you were thinking about during the quake... c'mon, you know you were wondering if it was the Mothership was finally here to take you home.

Because, honestly, I had some loopy thoughts like that meself. When Roommate appeared in my doorway after the shaking stopped, we started bandying around possible causes. When we both acknowledged the rarity of earthquakes in the Midwest, I knew there could only be one answer: monsters. Giant tectonic plate moving monsters underground.

I love me those X-Files re-runs on Sci Fi Channel.


Anonymous said...

Found your blog searching for info on the Wabash Fault. I am in S. IN (about 30 miles northwest of Louisville) and it shook me out of bed. Or rather, my bed started shaking pretty darn good and before I was even fully awake, I jumped up out of it and then felt the vibrating, shifting floor under my feet.

It did take me a second or two to realize what was going on. My first reaction, still in a haze of sleep, was tornado. Until I realized there were no storms.

There was also a rumbling with this thing. Don't know if it was just the various things in my house vibrating or what.

Amazing how far away this thing was felt. Folks in CA don't quite understand why we all got so excited by this quake. All I can say is let's see how you guys react to a tornado warning.

M said...

Oooh, I'll tell you how I reacted to my first tornado warning (the siren for the 'hood is literally across the street from my back yard)-- I was getting ready for bed, half naked, when the alarm went off. I ran to my basement and crouched there whimpering, surrounded by the cave spiders that live in there, praying that the house didn't come down so the rescuers wouldn't find my topless, mangled body among the wreckage. How embarrassing! Thanks for your post.