What is there to say about earthquakes that hasn’t been said already.
click to enlarge (green arrow locates Palo Alto west of Fremont across the Bay. Palo Alto is only a few miles from the fault. In fact the Stanford Univ Linear Accelerator is on the fault.)
The Virginia 5.8/5.9 earthquake was a new experience for easterners. If you live near the San Andreas fault shown in the map of California, quakes of this size (more or less) may occur several times in a decade (the green arrow points to our former home, Palo Alto CA). The Richter scale is exponential so the 6.9 “Big One” near San Jose (Loma Prieta) in 1989 was 10 times, or more, the energy of the Virginia quake at its epicenter. I can remember taking a taxi from Philadelphia Airport into Philly passing by many old brick buildings on the south side of Philly and thinking that all of those buildings would crumble to the ground if a quake of 6.9 came close to Philly having already experienced the Big One 15 miles away from the epicenter.
The Big One occurred in the hills between Santa Cruz and San Jose on October 17 at a little after 5PM. It rocked my building like a large boat sideways in 200-foot waves. I was head of this research institute so being the responsible person I was … I was the first out of the building. In retrospect, the quake lasted only about 15 seconds so this was the amount of time it took me to get from my 2nd floor office to my car next to the building. I was exhilarated, but I would not have been so if I was one of the 57 victims who were killed, or the thousands who were injured or incurred significant property damage. The mass transit system in the SF Bay Area received about $2 billion in damage in those 15 seconds.
I was sitting at my desk when the shaking started and rapidly crescendo’ed so that in a few seconds I realized what was happening. I darted out of my office to the main hall of the second floor and ran past my voluptuous HR person who was holding on to her doorway and hanging at about a 30 degree angle into the hall as I ran by – no need to save her. I remember bouncing off both walls of the hallway. I got down the stairs and out the front door to my car. Read the rest of this entry »