On the safe side
Wednesday October 18th 2023, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Life

Earthquakes roll up and down and side to side, with the P waves and S waves going at different speeds: so the farther away you are from the epicenter, the weaker the shaking but also the longer it goes on.

And we know from the big Loma Prieta in ’89 that those waves can bounce back and forth off the hills to east and west of the Bay and amplify themselves back up.

Thus it is imperative to get the alarm out immediately when one goes off: it gives people time to move to safety and away from where things might fall on them.

But it also means you’d better get it right, and the reverse-911 system for quake alerts is new, as are some of the sensors.

So there was a drill planned for tomorrow for testing that system, and an announcement went out to our cellphones about it this morning so that come the time, people would know it was only a drill.

However. An actual quake went off at about the same time, and both alerts went out more or less together, to much confusion. This was not helped by the fact that a sensor was off.

So around 9:00 a.m. our phones buzzed loudly that a 5.7 had just gone off in Sacramento. That’s a pretty big quake! And that–wait, are they saying this is just a drill or wait that’s tomorrow–what!?

The next problem is, within seconds, they determined that one sensor was quite off. The other sensors downgraded it to a 4.1 very quickly, but the word was already out because seconds matter.

Even at 90 miles away, for a 5.7 we got a blast of noise and told to duck and cover.

Uh, what quake?

So they are still getting the bugs out of this new system. But now everybody knows there’s a system. And not to freak out at the drill tomorrow.

Unless the earth decides to have a sense of humor again because hey we could all use a good laugh right now, right?

10:19 a.m. here we come.

3 Comments so far
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I.do.not.miss.earthquakes! I still have the QuakeFeed app on my phone, but the most we’ve seen anywhere near us is a 2.4. As long as the Cascadia Subduction Zone doesn’t go berserk, we’re safe. (It is near overdue status.)

Comment by Anne 10.18.23 @ 9:52 pm

My goodness, what crazy timing! Glad it wasn’t a big deal, for real.

Comment by ccr in MA 10.19.23 @ 6:54 am

I got the real alert (never any warning of testing) at nearly the same instant I felt the slightest shimmy. Just enough to make my mobiles sway, centered about 25 miles east of me. Still, lifelong Californian, I’ll take earthquakes over tornados or tropical storms.

Comment by DebbieR 10.19.23 @ 8:08 am

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