California Quake: Just a reminder
At about 10 p.m. last night, I was sitting at my computer when I had the sensation
that the room was swaying. I was pretty tired, so I ignored it at first. Then
the tabletop started to move, and I immediately scrambled underneath the table
onto all fours.
I crouched for several seconds, trembling, with a stream of images moving through my head of my apartment's roof caving in and of earthquake drills. Should I run to the doorway? Is that vase on top of my bookshelf about to topple over?
And then it was over.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported a magnitude-5.2 earthquake, lasting about
5 seconds, at 10:00:29 p.m. Pacific Time, centered 3 miles southwest of Gilroy,
Calif., and almost 5 miles down into Earth's crust. I looked it up immediately
online, as soon as I could sit down in my chair again and breathe normally.
The television news reported it about 5 minutes later, and several friends called
to say, hey, did you feel that?
This quake was too small to have a large effect in a region so well prepared
for seismic events. The ShakeMap that the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) posts
online said that it felt like a "light" earthquake in San Francisco.
(When I checked the map the next morning, almost 12,000 people had reported
what it felt like to them.) By about 10:15 p.m., the USGS had all the information
posted. The chances of this one being a precursor - it did happen within the
San Andreas fault zone, which is worrisome for those of us expecting "The
Big One" - were small, about 10 percent, according to the page I found.
More likely there would be smaller aftershocks. The profile of the quake, taken
by seismometers around the Bay Area, at places like the University of California
at Berkeley and the USGS in Palo Alto, was posted almost immediately.
Our seismic tracking system is almost as quick as an earthquake itself, or a lightning strike. The speed with which the news had reported it and we had all returned to normal is astonishing to me. But my physical reaction to the event indicated something big had happened. By 10:30, I was back at my computer working - but my breathing/heartbeat didn't return to normal until much later.
Geotimes contributing writer
U.S. Geological Survey ShakeMap for the 5.2-Magnitude Gilroy quake
USGS Preliminary Earthquake Report
Focal mechanism with stress diagram