Monday, July 25, 2005

My First Earthquake

I've just experienced my first earthquake! And I was dispatching in the 911 center no less. It happened at about 10 pm Mountain Time (Brandon did you feel it?). Things were pretty quiet in the center and I began to feel like I was on a boat. I always imagined it be more like in the movies, a jerky and jolting sensation with quick sudden movements, but it was smooth. The building (our center is located in the basement of a 3 story building) felt like it was a raft waves, or sliding back and forth. I've never experienced anything like it and immediately thought I had lost my equilibrium. I became queezy and confused--I would have never suspected it was the earth that was moving like that, I figured it was me. I was about to tell my two co-dispatchers about my sudden illness when I noticed our strongtly secured TV monitors and lights swinging back and forth. The quake lasted about 10 to 15 seconds it seemed then all 6 of our 911 lines and all 9 of our non-emergency lines lit up (the 911 lines roll over to non-emergency if all lines are tied up). Shit the bed! Shit the bed! Every ranch hand and river bum in the entire county called in to report an earthquake, as if they were the only ones, though a few called in to say someone was rocking their trailer from the outside trying to get in, and one guy called in the middle of it to say his neighbor's dog was barking. We fielded about 500 calls in 15 minutes, and they are still fielding calls now that I have left. We had to ask everyone if there were any injuries, structural damage, or gas line breaks. Nothing major, as far as injuries seems to have happend. It is nice to live in the middle of nowhere I suppose during an earthquake--no buildings to fall on anyone. It was 5.6 in magnitude and centered about 40 to 45 miles west of Bozeman. (Blogger takes a deep and long sigh). Glad to get a chance at this sort of thing before moving back to boring old Lincoln. Tornadoes just don't do it for me.


Brandon Shimoda said...


I was sitting at my desk and talking on the phone with a friend of mine who lives down the street, when I felt my desk start to writhe - literally writhe. I thought that maybe my neighbor's dog had gotten loose and was trying to bed down beneath my desk, and was having a troublesome time at that... But then my friend said, "Did you feel that?" And I thought how strange it was for her to say that at the exact moment that my desk was writhing. Aimee was in bed and she said the same thing, though she pegged it as an earthquake right away. I would not have guessed - we live one block from the railroad switchyard and when the trains rumble through - and especially when the link up - the sound is tremendous and it rattles the windows. So I thought it was just a train. There was no train, however. It was an earthquake, 5.6. I'm sure that it was much less felt than it was down in Bozeman, but still noticeable. I turned on the news and they were talking about the Missoula Osprey baseball team being 10-22.

The last earthquake I experienced was a much bigger one, in Tokyo, in 1988. I had left my hotel to buy a donut and was walking back with my donut when it hit. I looked up and could swear that I saw the skyscrapers leaning. I got back to my hotel - where my family was finishing breakfast - and all of the shoes that were left on the shelves in the entryway were spilled all over the front steps. In my panic, I dropped my donut...

That's funny about the 911 calls - the person who thought someone was shaking their trailer, the dog barking in the distance. I'm sure you'll look back fondly on those calls, if not at least finding them fertile ground for future Man (Pur)Suits.


Radish King said...

Shit the bed, shit the bed indeed. Have been through a few here, the biggest being a 7 a couple years ago. All you can do is hang on and ride. And the noise, yes, god yes, it's like a train driving into your house, amazing how loud the earth is when it packs up it's bags and moves. Hope your door still hang true.

Christine said...

I grew up in CA, so I don't remember my first quake, but I do remember one time in highschool, where I turned around to smack the boy behind me for shaking my desk, and he was looking very wide-eyed and frightened, so I didn't smack him.