I Felt the Earth Move

L.A. is synonymous with perfect weather, sunny beaches, Hollywood glamour, and a laid back lifestyle that sharply contrasts with that of more uptight areas of the country. “No worries” is a common phrase Angelenos use. It’s as if they’re saying: relax, this is L.A….

But life is not all fun and games here. Angelenos face many challenges. L.A. is the second most expensive city in the US. It has too many cars and too many people, most of whom spend too much time driving. And then there are droughts, wildfires, and the infamous earthquakes.

Part of “discovering” L.A. is to understand these challenges and learn how to cope with them. This includes incorporating disaster preparedness into our daily lives. Which takes me back to the title of this post.

Yes, on September 3, 2012 I felt the earth move right under my bed. It was 3:26 a.m. when a strange sound, followed by a strong jolt woke me up. Or was it a strong jolt, followed by a strange sound? It’s hard to remember how things happened when one is abruptly taken away from the sweet arms of Morpheus…

Anyway, after the sharp jolt, things around the room kept shaking for five seconds or so, especially the large mirror we have leaning against the wall –something every Angeleno would tell you not to do. And then, it all stopped.

I was quite shook up. My heart was pounding and I wasn’t sure what I should do. I realized I didn’t know the drill! My husband, a heavy sleeper, woke up with the tremor –we assume– but didn’t feel anything so we couldn’t even discuss the experience. And much to my surprise, he was back asleep in no time!

This being 2012, I resorted to the Internet to find out what had happened and to see what others were saying about it. And sure enough, the L.A.Times was reporting a shallow 3.2 magnitude earthquake centered in Beverly Hills. (Update below) And people from various parts of L.A.’s  Westside were reporting feeling the tremor and were also quite shook up. I was not alone.

Mind you, this was not my first experience with earthquakes. I lived in Berkeley for five years and experienced several minor shocks in the Bay Area. I also experienced the 2011 5.8 magnitude earthquake in the Washington D.C. area, which was one heck of a tremor. But the Beverly Hills quake was scarier because it caught us sleeping, which is a very vulnerable place to be.

Small quakes happen every day in California, often in the L.A. area. Just days before the Beverly Hills tremor, nearby towns were hit by a series of quakes. So, understandably, Angelenos are a bit blasé about earthquakes. But what I’ve realized is that many people, myself included, don’t even have a basic plan for handling an earthquake. And that is not acceptable.

I’m writing this post several days after the quake in part to help me keep focused on preparing for an eventual larger earthquake. I’ve been reading about earthquake preparedness and seeking as much information as possible about what to do in the event of an earthquake. We already have a plan of action with our daughter in case we can’t communicate after a quake hits. Next, I have to put together a couple of earthquake emergency kits.

With at least the basic stuff in place, if and when the “big one” comes, we will be in better shape than we are today. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy the wonderful weather and great vibe of this fabulous city.

Update: Minutes after posting this, another shallow magnitude 3.5 earthquake hit Beverly Hills. Ironically, this time I was walking around the house and didn’t feel anything but my husband, who was sitting watching TV, felt the jolt and called my attention.


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