Wednesday, June 23, 2010


EARTHQUAKE! ...OK, this was faked.

Yup, it's true.*

At 1:41 this afternoon, we had an earthquake. It was first listed on CBC at 5.5, but I see that they are now listing it at 5.0 and the USGS confirms this.

Take that L.A.! Our blue box is bigger than (all of) your blue box(es)!

The epicenter happened about 30km north of Buckingham, which is almost directly across the river from Cumberland, which is the next town over from Orléans where we live, so within 40km of Ottawa proper.

I was in training this afternoon, at a different building on campus from usual. At the first rumble, we stopped our work but weren't concerned yet. Then the rumble got louder and the shaking stronger, and the windows started rattling. Then the building really jumped, if you know what I mean, about 4 times, then more rumbling. It didn't last very long, maybe 10-15 seconds in total, maybe longer I'm not sure, but having been in a number of earthquakes in the past, I can tell you that even 15 seconds feels like a very long time. Luckily, since I am somewhat knowledgeable about earthquakes (or like to think I am), I was not too worried, but I think some of the other people in my group (U of O profs) were starting to get a bit concerned. Then it stopped. Someone said, "Earthquake?" One of the trainers thought that perhaps it was an explosion, either from the ongoing construction in the building next door or elsewhere, but we decided no, it was definitely an earthquake. We didn't know what to do. Someone said maybe we should go outside. Someone else said we should stay inside. We decided to go outside, which I remember having been told to do in Japan, though I saw later online that the recommendation actually depends on how earthquake-proof your building is.**

Outside it was a bit disorderly. No one was in charge. No one knew what to do. Not even everyone had left the building. It sounds like this was the case across most of campus. Hopefully this will make the university revisit its disaster/emergency plans. We tried to call other people. One of the profs I was with has a brother-in-law in media, so he tried to call him, but got his voicemail. Some people couldn't get through on their phones at all. (Turns out some of the networks went down. Surprise, surprise.) We could see the Parliament buildings from where we were, so we decided it had not been an explosion (since that would be the most logical target, no?) but an earthquake. One woman got through to her kids at home in Barrhaven, which is about 35-40 minutes southwest of downtown Ottawa, and they had felt it there too.

Anyway, after about 25 minutes, since no one had told any of us what to do, we eventually went back in to the building and finished our training. In retrospect, I'm a bit annoyed about that - there needs to be clearer policies. I was somewhat amused when, about an hour later, I went back to the law library, and after chatting with my colleagues about it, I went to check my email, and we had an email from the main communications office of the university advising us that there had been an earthquake, that no one was hurt, that there was no damage to any building, and that if we noticed "any physical changes in the building" to notify them. Well, I guess no buildings collapsed, if you call that "no damage". But at the law library, a light fixture had become partially detached on the second floor, and things (obviously) had been knocked around. In town, windows had broken at City Hall and (according to a co-worker) at the Rideau Centre, as well as a chimney that had collapsed at a building next to City Hall. A number of government buildings had been evacuated and people sent home until inspections were completed. I found it slightly cavalier that we were just sent back to work and told to keep our eyes open for any anomalies.

After reading about various damages, I decided I had to leave. It was 3:45 so not that much earlier. But we already have a broken window here at home (caused by moisture over the window), and I wanted to make sure we didn't have any others. Plus I couldn't get in touch with Randal, who was out in the west end of the city today at a departmental summer party (he had left his phone in his office).

Everything at home was fine. The dog was a bit more anxious than usual. I saw a number of things that had shifted position, and I'm sure it was bouncing around a bit here. Poor dog. A big metal tin had fallen to the floor in Randal's computer room. A pair of earrings slid off a shelf, and a framed picture was knocked over. The painting over our bed was noticeably askew. A jar (luckily plastic) had fallen off a shelf in the basement to the floor, and another had fallen over (luckily *not* to the floor, as it was glass and would surely have broken). The medicine cabinet door was ajar. But nothing broke, so that's good. I have heard reports of houses on the Quebec side of the river (and we are only a 10-minute walk from the river) that have cracks in their walls now, so I'll take the many pairs of shoes that slid off a shelving unit and gladly place them carefully back on it. There was also serious damage in the town of Gracefield, about 40km west of the epicentre (for comparison, Orléans is about 40km south) - a church steeple collapsed, as well as some walls at a local restaurant and a community centre. This makes me doubly sad since, though I am not sure I have ever actually been to Gracefield, my paternal grandparents were from there.

Earthquake (4)
Messy shoes (and more)! Oh, the inhumanity!!!

The funniest things coming out of the earthquake? The tsunami warnings on the G20 fake lake, and, in a very similar vein, my friend Paul's claim*** that the fake quake has now put the cost of the G20 at well in excess of 3 billion dollars. Welcome to Canada, eh?****

* I'd add: "And you heard it here first, but that in almost all certainty would not be true. If it is, get better news sources.
** It turns out that many of the older buildings on campus are not necessarily earthquake-proof. I was in one of those, I'm sure - and for sure the law library is in one of those - so I guess we made the right decision.
*** I don't know if he came up with it first.
**** You can find more groaners here.

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