Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When You Feel a Quake and Shake ...

"When You Feel a Quake
and Shake
Get under Your Table
and Finish Your Steak!"

That was the warning sign (or something like that) I saw when I ate dinner at the Parkfield Cafe in Parkfield, California.

Parkfield prides itself as the "Earthquake Capital of the World."
They are on the San Andreas Fault (or very near it) and this small town has US Geological Survey (USGS) equipment in place as geologists wait for the "big one" and collect the all important seismic data.

Reference: "The Parkfield, California, Earthquake Experiment."

The news (as I type this on September 29, 2009) of Tsunami Strikes American Samoa After 8.3-Magnitude Quake brought back memories of living on the West Coast. I used to check the map of the Earthquakes in California on the USGS site as often as others would routinely check the daily weather report. Earthquakes happened everyday - only I did not notice them much. All the traffic noise usually drown out most of the earth tremors, except for the real big ones.

My first trip, my husband and I went pig hunting with a guide near the San Andreas Fault. As we stayed at the Parkfield Inn dining in the Cafe, I noticed their "quake warning sign." They had a hundred branding irons (or more) hanging from the ceiling. The thought of all those branding irons raining down on me during the "big one" was as comforting as the Sword of Damocles dangling over my head.

Our first visit, my husband got a boar and we ate sausages all the next year. (They were good.) Next visit, we signed up for hunting lessons from our guide.

That late December 2003 before Christmas, we stood out in the ripe grass, practicing our stances, our aim and shooting skills at targets. Then the ground under us shook, the pickup truck jumped up and down on its tires like giant springs, and the trees lining the field swayed in convulsions.


Was this the "big one" the USGS was waiting for all these years?

This quake broke several wine glasses stacked in the Parkfield Cafe. I had hoped everyone remembered to get under their table and finish their steak.

But Parkfield was disappointed, again, as this quake came from the San Simeon Fault, not the San Andreas. And my guide was disappointed for he forgot to look at the fields to see the rippling of the seismic waves.

Unfortunately, this quake brought some heartbreak as a few people in a nearby town died from the crumbling debris falling from a building. Then governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the area and offered condolences for the victims' families and assessed the damage.

The force of nature is awesome.

At times like these, the following verses have a personal meaning:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-3 (King James Version)

Related links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com
Me at the San Andreas: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3994227

Parkfield: Quintessential California: Parkfield, California
USGS - Recent Earthquakes in California and Nevada: quake.usgs.gov/recenteqs/
Parkfield, CA and the San Andreas Fault: www.openroad.tv/index.php?categoryid=16&p25_id=297

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