All shook up over earthquake danger

The vibrations began at 5 a.m. on that Sunday morning. I awoke to the sound of the motel walls creaking and groaning. “Was someone jumping up and down on the floor above my unit?” my sleep-ridden mind wondered.

At that moment the shaking changed to a rolling motion like that of a ship at sea. But I was on “solid” ground. “How is this possible?” I asked myself. It was at that moment that I realized I was living through my first earthquake.

I was visiting Los Angeles with my family at the time and later found that my wake-up tremor was a 7.5 quake on the Richter scale. It caused massive damage and one death at its epicenter—70 miles east of LA. It being my first earthquake, I had no idea of the severity. After all, we were visiting California where they have earthquakes all the time. “Let’s go back to sleep,” I told my family, and we did.

Here in Seattle we may be sleeping when we should be wide awake. UW and USGS researchers have found evidence of a fault that runs directly through the city center and could generate a 7.5 quake just like my wake-up call. UW News and Information Writer Bill Cannon wrote our cover story, “A Fault Runs Through It,” on this new danger and some of the other hazards we face.

The new information should wake us up. The University has already begun a program to reinforce its brick masonry buildings—the most hazardous place to be in earthquakes. But we all need to take care at home as well. The Red Cross recommends storing a three-day supply of food and water for each family member, plus a first aid kit, battery-powered radio, extra clothing and blankets. Family members should know how to shut off water, gas and electricity. If your neighborhood is in ruins, you should have an alternative meeting place that each family member knows about, be it grandma’s house or dad’s office. It’s also good to have an out-of-state phone number that each family member can use to check in. Often during emergencies local service may be limited while long distance remains functional.

We don’t want to shake up our readers, but as our cover story proves, the earthquake danger is real. We can’t sleep through this forever.