I’ve already heard jokes about the lengths I’ll go to get material for my blog, but I promise you I had nothing to do with the earthquake that hit Tuesday at 2:34 am. We were jolted awake and wondered briefly whether we should put on coats and go outside. The shaking stopped by then and we got up to check on what happened. The power was out. A bottle of bourbon flew off the shelf and smashed on the floor, but other bottles that fell off didn’t break.
Jonathan’s knives are attached to magnetic strips along the wall by the stove and fridge. The shock of the earthquake threw knives across the kitchen. It looked like a failed circus act. I’m glad we were in bed.
We got back into bed and called the girls. Lyra was ok though her Christmas tree tipped over, spilling water all around. Amanda was distraught but she and her family were unscathed. Their house was a shambles, damage uncertain. We told her to try and get some sleep and that we’d come help in the morning.
It took a while to get back to sleep, especially with the occasional aftershock reminding us of the general instability of our region. The epicenter of Tuesday’s magnitude 6.4 earthquake was almost exactly on the Mendocino Triple Junction. The Triple Junction is where three of the tectonic plates that make up the earth’s crust come together. The meeting of three of these is a bit unusual. Along the Pacific Rim of North and South America, one plate is pushed below another where they meet. A triple junction makes things more complex. Often, when the plates move they cause earthquakes.
We got some sleep, and in the morning it was raining. Jonathan heated water for instant coffee over the extra burner of our gas grill, not a great solution in the rain and wind, but we got some caffeine. The power was still out. We left for Rio Dell to help Amanda and Jim and hoped the power would come on while we were away. Outside the house, I could hear the hum of generators, as everyone who has a home generator fired them up to run their refrigerator or a heater.
Traffic lights were blinking, but people seemed to remember how a four-way stop works, and we got on to the highway without difficulty. Most stores were closed, and there was no place to get coffee.
We arrived with a gallon of water and work gloves. A quick tour showed that most cupboards and cabinets had disgorged their contents onto the floor, into the sink or the bathtub. A set of curio shelves dumped tiny agates, beach rocks, sea glass, and small souvenirs in a pile of glass shards. We put glass into paper bags and rocks into cloth bags. When we eventually got all the objects and larger bits of glass picked up, we vacuumed the area, picking tiny crumbs of glass up as they sparkled in the light.
Everyone took a turn with the baby, keeping Aurora changed and fed and entertained while the others picked up. Their two dogs were corralled in the hallway by the bedrooms to keep them out of the glass. Every now and then we’d carry them outside for a moment of freedom, but even after the rain stopped, the ground was wet and cold.
The garage was full of crushed glass from the cabinet of wine glasses and flower vases. Jim worked on picking up fallen cans of paint, oil, and piles of wood, then he and Jonathan swept up glass fragments.
Lyra arrived with her camping gear. She and Jim set up a table and her camp stove in the driveway, and Jim set about making coffee. He offered it to the neighbors, too, and spent a few minutes exchanging earthquake stories. We were happy to have another sip of coffee. Friends from work stopped by to deliver ten gallons of drinking water, and soup ready to be heated. Every phone filled with texts asking how we all were faring.
The kitchen was covered with broken glass and the remnants of a bottle of cooking oil. First, we picked up and swept up glass, then Lyra went over it with degreaser and we could finally walk across the room safely. Others restored order to the bathrooms and bedrooms, and started in on cleaning up the sunroom, where a number of plant pots had crunched on the tile and needed repotting as well as cleanup. Little by little the mess receded.
Though there was still some cleanup left, we left at 2:30 pm, with the house in much better shape. Everyone came to our house for dinner, and Amanda, Jim, and Aurora will stay until there is power and water again in Rio Dell. We made a stop at the grocery store. Stores were open in Eureka by mid-afternoon. At home, the power was still off, and with the inside the same mid-50s temperature as outside, taking a short nap seemed the only practical thing to do. I lay in bed reading, then tried to sleep. Suddenly, the lights came back on. Then the heat! We were back in business.
By the time the kids arrived just after 6 pm, I was baking cookies and Jonathan had the chicken for dinner marinating. We had a delicious dinner and everyone agreed that we’d turned a bad day into a pretty good one. Having family and neighbors to call on during the aftermath of the earthquake was a huge relief. People smiled and spoke to one another, we all worked together without any complaints or harsh words, and we had everything back in order more quickly than anyone thought possible. The losses are just things. Some were sentimental favorites, and I did bring home a bag of pieces that may eventually be made into other things, but overall we were happy to be together. We’re the lucky ones, grateful to have friends, neighbors, and each other.
Postscript: Last year, on Dec. 20, 2021, just after noon, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit almost the same spot, just a bit further off shore. This year, same day, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit. What will happen next year?
Earthquake Dec. 20, 2021 12:10 pm
Winter solstice Dec. 21, 2021 7:58 am
Earthquake Dec. 20, 2022 2:34 am
Winter solstice Dec. 21, 2022 1:47 pm