I was doing a crossword on my MacBook Pro when with no warning at all the house started to really shake. This was a big earthquake: it felt big and things were moving around. Trivial items fell from shelves, something broke. I was worried the tall column heater would fall from the small table it sits on (so Oshi can’t pee on it). 〰️
For the first time in my life I decided to leave the house. The computer was in my hand anyway, so I pulled the cord and took the two steps to the front door.
Luckily the much needed rain was taking a break.
Out on the deck I called the dogs. Oshi came out, but Sasha had gone to hide under a bed and took a few moments.
My heart was pounding. My hands were shaking as I fumbled with my phone to call my partner, Deb, at work in Wellington.
That’s the first time in my life I’ve actually left the house in an earthquake. In the past we’ve had a few big ones that made me consider it (I don’t bother for the many small quakes we get).
And as I write we’re having an aftershock, but mild, fortunately — an M4.0. That was just a slight bang and a sort of mild wavy motion. I was ready though to pull the plug and head for the deck again.
Our house sits on what is essentially a small sandhill. When it was built the engineers required 6 metre long wooden piles to reach solid ground. The effect of that is that if the wind gusts hard, or the washing machine does a spin cycle, or if you walk too heavily the house will shake a bit. That also means that any earthquake is magnified. Our friends next door though, whose house is on solid flat ground, reported that their house shook violently too in this quake.
Aotearoa New Zealand has thousands of earthquakes each year, thanks to being on the Ring of Fire. Most are tiny and no-one notices them, but each year we can expect to feel a handful of small shakes.
The pheasants usually let us know when a quake’s on its way. They feel vibrations in the earth before the shaking reaches and they squawk continuously. It’s their special earthquake squawk, different from other alarm calls.
This quake though was so close — only about 33 Km away and only 37 Km deep — that I guess there was no time difference in the waves.
We also often hear something before shaking starts: a bang, or a rumble, or a vibration or something. This time was different: one moment I was sitting quietly pondering a crossword clue and the next I was jumping up and heading for the door.
The outcome though is that although I haven’t yet inspected the outside of the house (the rain came back), there’s no damage beyond some fallen trinkets, a broken tumbler and a broken candle holder. And my heart rate is still elevated.
That’s a tribute to New Zealand building regulations.
And, oops, a tsunami risk (there is none) never even occurred to me!