EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Earthquake | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'earthquake'

Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On

Downtown NapaYes, I woke up a 3:20am this morning to feel my house shaking quite a bit. To all the newcomers to San Francisco, welcome. You’ve just felt your first big earthquake.

Centered in American Canyon near Napa that is where the most damage was. So far I’ve read that there were about 70 people injured mostly near the epicenter of the quake. That wasn’t too bad. During the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that registered 6.9 [or some people still argue it was 7.1] 63 people died, but over 3700 people were injured. The 1906 was estimated at being around 7.8. The recent American Canyon quake people are saying was between 5.7-6.1.

I don’t remember the last time I felt an earthquake in SF other than the Loma Prieta, but we used to get them more frequently than we do now. They used to be so frequent that people tended to ignore them most of the time [see the video at the end. That’s the way most San Franciscan’s handled an earthquake even though it’s a clip from the movie L.A. Story].

Earthquake preparedness wasn’t a big thing before the Loma Prieta. The earthquakes just weren’t that big before then and there were never any after effects. I woke up this morning to feel my house shaking in an East West direction. The first thing I realized is that this was a longer than normal quake because I actually had the time to think about what direction the shaking was happening in. I heard the doors that were closed rattling and after I realized we were having an earthquake I made sure my wife was awake. We learned a few years ago during our NERT training that running for a doorway isn’t the best thing to do. Get up against a wall because if the building falls down being next to a wall is the best place to be because if the roof falls it will most likely break at an angle giving you the most room and air to breath next to a wall.

I of course made sure my wife was against the wall and then did the dumb thing — I started to run to get near our daughter. Her room is upstairs and being seven and autistic this might not go over well with her. Luckily by the time I got to the stairs the quake was over and my daughter had slept through it.

I did a quick check and saw that LED’s on some of our electrical gear was still on so I knew we hadn’t lost power. I grabbed my phone  as soon as the quake started and realized that my iPhone with the built in flashlight was probably a good thing to have next to the bed for just such an occurrence. I hadn’t heard anything fall over so I started to calm down and checked twitter and Facebook to see what my friends felt. San Francisco is fine, Napa looks like it’s pretty trashed right now.

OK, it was near American Canyon so we were away from the epicenter which was good. All of my friends in SF were fine so now it was time to calm down and go back to bed. The biggest problem after an earthquake is the rush you get that when you’re lying down trying to fall back asleep that makes everything feel like its still moving. While the quake lasted maybe 30 seconds or so [The NSGS never tells you how long a quake lasts only how big it was.] I still felt like the house was mildly shaking for about five minutes afterwards. I managed to get back to sleep and woke up this morning to see what everyone else was saying. There’s a kind of dark humor that pops up after a disaster, especially if you’re on the edge of it. I actually had to add to it with the following tweet that’s starting to go viral:

Dark Humor

Other’s are showing how tough they are by bragging that they were in the 1989 quake and this was nothing. While that’s true, I think the people in Napa might disagree with you. Earthquakes are pretty scary to say the least. We generally have a lot less damage than a hurricane or tornado though and the big ones only have once every 20 or so years. We’re pretty lucky overall. Now let’s see if people start leaving San Francisco since I did predict about a year ago that the only thing that would get people to move out would be an earthquake…

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The Towering Inferno

The Towering InfernoIt’s time to go to the movies again and last night I watched the Towering Inferno to remind me of life in San Francisco back in the 70’s. This is one of those movies that you have to watch to get a feel of what the city was like back in 1975 even though it has plenty of Hollywood sheen added to it.

I first have to give props to Hollywood in that a large amount of the movie was actually filmed in San Francisco. I remember when the film came out there was a big opening night screening with lots of the cast members in attendance here in San Francisco and not Hollywood. This movie came out at a time when disaster movies were all the rage until they started being spoofed by movies like Airplane! The set designs were über 70’s chic that reminded me of an old James Bond movie more than a place were people actually lived and worked. All the men wore suits and had voices like they smoked too much [which they did back then] and women wore, well I’m not sure what the style was called, but when you see it there is definitely a 70’s fashion sense that comes through. The good thing is that women did look kind of hot back in the 70’s until you realize that the younger women in their 20’s are now pushing 70 today. The men were dashing and a bit on the overly macho side. I had to think for a minute to realize that Fred Astaire would be 114 years old if he was still around today. The lifestyle was pure decadent 70’s in this new high rise building. So decadent that the main office had a secret bedroom off to the side which Robert Wagner and Susan Flannery make use of within the first 10 minutes of the movie.

The cast is a definite who’s who of 70’s actors and actresses. If you don’t know their names you certainly will know their faces. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are the best known and this movies just shows why people would sometimes confuse the two. Faye Dunaway is absolutely gorgeous in this movie as Paul Newman’s high society girlfriend who is always dressed to the nines throughout the film. One of the things I noticed was how white the movie was, but that was back in the 70’s and that’s the way people watching TV and going to the movies liked it back then. You have two token cast members with O.J. Simpson playing the head of security and Gregory Sierra [anyone remember him?] playing a bartender, so they got their ethnic bases covered for the 70’s. Not a single Asian was used in the filming of this movie which I thought was kind of odd since you’re in San Francisco which has one of the most well known Chinatowns in the world, yet there are no Asians on the streets anywhere. Now that I think about you saw very few Asians in TV and movies back then except for the occasional comic relief in a western or George Takei in Star Trek.

Now then, onto the plot. This is where the movie gets funny looking back. A skyscraper is built in San Francisco which is the tallest building in the world. Obviously since this was the time of disaster movies building up to code wasn’t good enough and they needed better, but they just stuck to the rules and built to code along with leaving a large pile of oily rags surrounded by containers of flammable liquid next to a main electrical box that shorts out. The fire starts on the 81st floor while a party to celebrate San Francisco having the tallest building in the world is going on at the top in the Promenade Room. Apparently back in the 70’s nobody had learned that in case of fire take the stairs not the elevator. This is shown very quickly when Steve McQueen’s character walks in calmly and takes a look at the fire then hops in an elevator three feet away that he takes up to the Promenade Room. Note this is the same elevator that ten minutes later a group of people crowd onto to get away from the Promenade Room only to have the doors mysteriously open up on the floor of the fire serving up roast human to the firefighters. My cousin is a retired fireman and I’ll have to ask him how horribly wrong the fire department handled the fire during the movie. In the end the movie sticks to disaster theme formula of I die, you die, we all die pretty much with only the most righteous believers surviving.

If you see nothing else you should at least see the opening of the movie with the helicopter ride over San Francisco. While not a car chase, the helicopter visuals were spliced together in such a way that wasn’t linear, but hits all the sites of San Francisco. Enjoy the trailer and watch the film if you can find it.

NERT: It could save your life

NERT, or Neighborhood Emergency Response Team is a free service provided by the San Francisco Firefighters to help train the public in how to deal with emergency and disaster related situations. Other cities have Community Emergency Response Team classes, but San Francisco, being a bit different focuses on the type of disasters we are most likely to encounter. I haven’t heard of a hurricane ever hitting San Francisco, but earthquakes are up there at the top of the list and this is a good way to get training on what to do in case you’re hit by one or any of the other problems that could crop up with or without an earthquake such as fires, medical emergencies, etc.

My wife found out about this first and brought it up to me because I always used to test her by yelling GET DOWN NOW! and watch her ask me, why? I’d politely remind her that if she had to question me when I yelled a line like that she might end up dead. I can be a bit smug at times and I know that it wasn’t exactly the right situation to make that most effective. Since I had been a Boy Scout and gone through all of this before I figured it might be fun to have a refresher course since it was free as well. There are six classes you take totaling 20 hours. It’s not really that hard or time consuming and it’s definitely not a boring class. You have to be re-certified every couple of years, but that’s just having to take the last two courses.

Well, it turns out what I learned as a Boy Scout isn’t what you’re supposed to do anymore. We were always taught the first thing you do when someone has a severed limb [how many of us have ever been in that situation?] was to apply a tourniquet. Turns out that’s not the best thing to do since you could end up making the person lose more of the limb by killing off blood flow and you should always apply direct pressure until medical professionals can get there.

Remember standing in a doorway during an earthquake? WRONG! It’s actually best to get up against a way because if the ceiling drops in chances are pretty good that a portion will fall at an angle leaving you with a safe place. I also got to learn things I had never thought of before such as teamwork in a situation when some is trapped under say a fallen telephone pole or a car. This was also the first time someone had lit a controlled fire and handed me an extinguisher and told me to put it out. These are handy tips to know and the best part was at the end we got our yellow hard hats and orange safety vests. Yes, some of you might think at times that those outfits look a little dorky, but if something bad comes down like another ’89 earthquake you’ll be glad to see these people. I could go into more detail, but it’s best to get your information from the NERT website.

Wild Weekends & Disasters

OK, so here’s the deal. I’ve decided that Monday’s through Friday’s I will post articles about San Francisco. On the weekends if I get some time I’ll post bonus material that can be about anything in particular, stream of consciousness rants, whatever. I’ll call these wild weekend articles. That being said today I want to talk about…

Disasters. We hear about them all the time. Earthquakes in Japan, tornados in the midwest, hurricanes in the south and east. What I find funny is that people who live in the areas where it seems like they have to buy a new house every year have all said to me, California’s nice, but I could never live there because of the earthquakes.

I’ve lived in San Francisco my entire life and the only time there was a disaster that set us back was in 1989 when the 6.9 earthquake set us back a day. We lost power for about four hours and our phone lines were screwed up for about four days and that was it. Our house survived quite well as it was bolted to the foundation and the only thing in our house that got damaged was a ceramic goblet that I bought at the renaissance faire that fell off a shelf.

Yes, you don’t know when they are coming and when they do they’re usually very loud and scary, but they’re over shortly and life goes back to normal. I think the scene from L.A. Story where Steve Martin is sitting at a cafe with a group of people when an earthquake hits and they are all going about their business because it’s no big deal. It really isn’t that big a deal unless you might happen to live in a liquifaction area such as the Marina which really had only the area North of Chestnut street affected.

Yes, I did get hit with a few falling bricks and some flying glass shards from a broken window when the quake hit in 1989, but  because we get quakes often enough we know what to do and we’re prepared. So why is it then that other parts of the country that get hit by large hurricanes and tornados every year get warnings and aren’t prepared? Looks like a cat 5 is coming, ah nothing to worry about we’ll get by. Seriously? I know a lot of friends in hurricane country who do get out in time and hope their home is still there when they get back and in a lot of cases it is there, but they still get affected in some way much worse that us people who live in earthquake country. Like having to throw out their refrigerators because of the toxic mess that’s accumulated in the week or so they’ve been gone and the fridge has been off.

Well what about the Northridge quake? Yep, that one was pretty bad when it happened over 30 years ago. We don’t get blizzard conditions in the winter or heat waves in the summer. We’re lucky to see the temperature go past 100° for more than a couple of days [except for perhaps in Needles, CA]. There are parts of California that do fall prey to flooding, but they’re on the coast and if you want to avoid flooding, don’t live on the coast. I recently looked at the weather departments predicitions of a tsunami hitting San Francisco and as long as you live above 46th avenue in the Sunset above La Playa in the Richmond you’ll be fine. That’s only two blocks that would be affected.

There was a recent study done on the San Andreas fault that showed that it would never be capable of delivering a quake much above a 7.6 at this point in time. So earthquakes aren’t really something you need to be too afraid of here in California. They’re just a little surprise wake up call to make sure you’re prepared.

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San Francisco Vs. The Tsunami

You’ll all have to thank my wife for this post. She had done a bit of research on how bad SF would fare if hit with a tsunami and I have to say that my off the cuff, unscientific assessment was off. I had it worse that it really would be.

She steered me toward the County Tsunami Inundation Maps website that shows just how bad we would be hit and I was kind of surprised. It’s the first time I am glad I’m on the front line of defense because the wave would hit us then make a left and head into the bay. Pretty much if you live in the Sunset or Richmond above 47th avenue you’ll be safe. The site’s a little hard to understand at first because it gives you a far away map and you have to click on it to download a large PDF image. I should have figured that since it was run by the government it wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe Apple should be hired as a consultant to make it more user friendly.

From what I can tell from the maps the worst places to be the Marina, the Wharfs, China Basin and Islais Creek. Oh let’s not leave out Treasure Island which would be underwater. I guess my earlier jokes about the tsunami evacuation signs being at the beach wasn’t that far off. Essentially they’re tell you to move a block away and you’ll be fine. I’ve also noticed that Oakland, Alameda and Emeryville will have a few problems as well even though they’re farther inland. Even those places won’t be hit by more than a few blocks.

It appears that as long as you are about a half mile in from the water you will be fine and have nothing to worry about. So everyone, stop being paranoid and get back to enjoying life. SF 1 – Tsunami 0.

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The Tsunami That Never Was

Oddly enough it was earlier last week I was thinking about writing this long before the earthquake hit Japan. It’s one of those funny, duh kinds of things that just has me scratching my head sometimes. Notice the sign to the left. Good idea to know which direction to go in case of a Tsunami emergency.

I’d like to talk a little bit about tsunamis and San Francisco. We used to get tidal wave alerts fairly often out in the Sunset with warning to expect flooding. You know what we used to do? Drive down to the beach to watch and see if the big wave ever came. Absolute opposite to what a person should do, but we did it anyway. Guess what. No tsunami’s ever came. Even if we did get a big one there’s a few hurdles it would have to cross first.

  1. There’s either concrete walls or  rock and sand piled up at the beach that reaches close to 30 feet. The waves that devastated Crescent City in 1964 topped 20′. We’d need something a lot bigger than that.
  2. The 8.9 or 9.1 quake that hit Japan has no chance of happening here according to experts because of the way the San Andreas Fault is built, plus our fault line is inland, not 10=15 miles off shore.
  3. If a wave did manage to pass over the rock, sand and concrete it would have to drop about 40′ into a trough like area that runs uphill for about 4 blocks before you’re at the same level as the top of the sand.

So all in all we’re pretty safe. My house is over 100 ft above sea level so I know I’m safe and if there’s ever a chance I’m not then there’s pretty much no where in San Francisco you’d be safe.

Now back to the picture. That picture was taken at the foot of Judah street right across the street from Java Beach cafe. If you turn 180° this is what you see. OCEAN BEACH! Ok, I kind of took a few liberties with the picture, but basically the sign is right across the street from the beach.

Yes, this sign was money well spent for people who ride on a short bus to their meetings at the low IQ club. No where else further up Judah is there another sign except over on Lincoln Blvd where there’s one a block up from the beach. No other street has signs like this so I suppose the city of San Francisco is telling residents that if you live in the northern part of the Sunset District you probably aren’t very smart.

[gmap zoom=’16’ center_lat=”37.7604278″ center_lon=”-122.5089745″]

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The Great Quake of 2011

Well, Friday had a little surprise for me. I’m sitting here at the computer like I am frequently when all of the sudden I notice the computer start to shake. Then the walls begin to shake. I immediately grabbed onto and hugged my computer until the shaking stopped. My wife, she ran into the other room and grabbed our daughter to make sure she was safe. OK, BAD DADDY!

Turns out it was only a 4.1 and was ESE of San Jose. It only registered 2.6 in San Francisco which I’m a little dubious of. We might have to make a trip to the Randall Museum to double check their seismometer.

We haven’t had an earthquake to speak of in a few years. Usually they last only a second or two  and you only realize that there was an earthquake after it’s gone. This one lasted about 5 seconds so we had time to register in our minds that we were in the middle of an earthquake. I wasn’t scared at all, just wanting to make sure none of my essential stuff didn’t get broken [i.e. my computer].

People have said to me that they’re rather live in a hurricane area or tornado area or blizzard area than to have to worry about earthquakes all the time. Well, I can assure you, we don’t worry about earthquakes all the time. While my house faired through the big 1989 quake with no damage unlike the Marina house in the picture, we might have a problem if the San Andreas decides to have a little shake, rattle and roll. It turns out the San Andreas runs about 10 feet from our house so if a big one strikes there we’re toast, but this house has been in my family for over 50 years and we still haven’t had any damage from an earthquake.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have a grab and dash bag if something big does hit and we’ve both gone through NERT training so if something bad happens we’re prepared. So don’t worry, be happy. San Francisco will still be around for a few more years. Sorry red states.