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Did you feel that?

I was at GC’s house, watching the lovebirds engaging in elaborate foreplay rituals, when the earthquake hit. At first GC and I just looked at each other as the noise and the shaking intensified, and then the realization that it was an earthquake dawned on us. I’ve experienced earthquakes before, but this one was stronger than the others. The birds, however, were oblivious to it, and The Dog seemed unconcerned.

I tend to be unnaturally calm in emergencies. Useless, but calm. Everything slows down, and since I can’t control the outcome, I just float with it. It’s the same thing when I’ve experienced a car accident and a home invasion. Just float. Don’t panic. Slide, slow motion, into the future.

As soon as it was over, I remembered we should be standing in a doorway, so we went and stood in the kitchen doorway. Which felt a little silly, since it was already over.

“Let’s go outside,” I suggested, so we did that. All the neighbours were outside too, describing how it felt to them, which was more or less how it felt to all of us.

“Let’s go listen to the radio,” I said.

We went back in, turned on CBC and the TV and wondered why the media still seemed oblivious to it. Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, were abuzz with first-hand reports and earthquake jokes already. My favourite was the tsunami warning for the G20’s Fake Lake. (#fakelakequake).

Social media was way ahead of mainstream media on this one. After about 20 minutes or so, media reports started trickling in. Which isn’t bad, really, considering they’d been evacuated from their buildings and had to verify information and so on, but still, it felt like they were late to the party. And even then, the TV stations were getting much of their footage from youtube. I’m still used to the olden days when we got our news from the media, rather than the other way round.

The City of Ottawa, straggling onto Twitter at 3:57, looked a little lame announcing the earthquake fully two hours and 16 minutes after it happened. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing than to announce the occurrence of an event that everybody else already been talking about for hours.

quake1Four hours after the quake we left GC’s house and came to my house, which is about 7km from his. That’s when I discovered that the earthquake was not felt uniformly across the city.

My house looked like it had been shaken by a giant fist. We ran from room to room, quickly surveying the damage while looking for Duncan. The second floor was the worst. Pieces of furniture had moved away from their walls. Things had fallen. In my bedroom, I have a dresser and hutch. The hutch had fallen to the floor, spilling the contents of all its shelves.

quake3We ran back downstairs, thinking Duncan must be in the basement. Poor guy. We met him coming up from the basement, looking for us, keeping low to the ground, shaking. He was so traumatized. I scooped him up and cuddled him and stroked him and told him everything was okay. I can only imagine how terrified he must have been as things came crashing down all around him as he ran through the house.

After a few minutes he was feeling much better, and we went upstairs to tidy up. Miraculously, my procrastinating ways had saved some of my treasures. In my bedroom, there was a basket of clean laundry in front of the dresser. Also, the bottom dresser drawer was open. When the hutch went flying, almost everything on it – from framed pictures to cast-iron pigs – landed either in the open drawer or on the clean laundry. As a result, there was very little breakage.

quake2(This reminds me of another case where procrastination saved the day. Eric Yardley, who owns Yardley Antiques, had been procrastinating about installing his new fire extinguisher in his home. He’d bought it and left it on top of his dryer for weeks. One day while both he and his wife were at work, the dryer caught fire, eventually causing the extinguisher to explode and put out the fire.)

Anyway. That was my experience of the great quake of ’10. How was yours?

Other things we did yesterday:

1) Attended the Grand Opening of The Oaks
2) Watched lovebirds having sex
3) Sat in the rain at the Jazz Festival waiting for a delayed concert to start, and finally left.

21 comments to Did you feel that?

  • grace

    Any damage to the neighbour’s front steps?

  • Holy wow! Biggest thing to happen chez moi was a plastic Wile E. Coyote on a handcar fell off the windowsill and landed in a box of cables and crap.

  • Nat

    Wow! That’s quite something. We were in the car and didn’t feel a thing.

    I expected to find stuff off the walls but really there was nothing. (A few pictures seem crooked but in all honesty, they may have been that way for a while.)

  • EK

    I was on the 15th floor of an office tower… it was terrifying. Everything was shaking and the floor felt like it was bouncing, which it probably was. I was convinced, for one minute, that the building was falling down and we were all going to die. Not fun!

    What was fun was Twitter after. Did you see Tony Clement tweeted: “I blame #bieber #earthquake”

  • It was pretty scary! I was on the 18th floor of my office tower and believe you me it was not something I would like to experience again. I am happy that I was in my office tower and not out somehwere all alone.

    Wow your house did get a good shake. My Husband said that things rattled a bit but nothing moved to much.

  • lucy

    I am surprised your house got so shaken up. I got home and looked around and couldn’t see any effects of the tremor at all, except for a plastic container lying on the kitchen floor that probably fell off the draining rack. It was probably balanced quite precariously on top of the dishes to begin with. The pictures on my walls hadn’t even shifted as far I could tell.

    Like you I am quite calm in emergencies; I was in my office with my student and when the shaking started I thought at first that it was from some of the construction going on all around. Then it dawned on me what it was and I said “should we go out?” and we both got up but by the time we got to the door it was over and so we went back to our work.

    This is the strongest one I have felt in Ottawa (I can only remember one other about 4-5 yrs ago, which was so mild I wasn’t sure it had happened until afterwards when I heard about it on the news) but I have experienced other stronger ones in other countries.

  • I was at Marshy’s having lunch with my boob group and everyone there barely looked up from their beer and grunted (the other patrons, not my girls!). When I got home, I went to see if there was any damage and couldn’t find anything. The bikes were still hanging properly in the garage. Later, when Peter got home, he went up to the front room where he keeps his main computer and found that a framed photo had fallen off the top of the bookcase where the desk is and by a long-odds shot had broken off one of the tiny latches that keep the lid of the laptop closed (it was open at the time).

    I went into the basement to look and gave up, because it is such a mess down there that you wouldn’t be able to tell if something had fallen.

    I found it interesting that everyone downtown ran out of their buildings, when the proper thing to do in an earthquake is to stand in a doorway or get under a table (to keep debris from hitting you). Someone who was working at City Hall said she never saw the councillors move so fast. It reminded me of rats and sinking ships, if you know what I mean.

  • TechWood

    Having lived in earthquake central for about 5 years I will agree that the usual thought is to stand in a doorway.

    Truth of the matter is that although it’s a good second/third/fourth choice – you should be under a strong coffee table (not a glass one) or if you have a bed that’s got decent clearance and a strong base it’s another safe spot.

    The idea is that whatever comes crashing down won’t land on you directly and if all hell breaks loose and the whole house comes down on you you’ll be in a safe spot with some air until you can get out from it all.

    I never asked about basements because I’ve never been in a house in Los Angeles with one and I don’t know that you’re even allowed to have one there. Everything is on-grade concrete slab.

  • Stephanie

    I’m glad Duncan was ok. When I got home, my 3 cats seemed ok except one looked a bit freaked out, even though I came home at 4:30, so it was 3 hours later. I spoke to a friend who knows someone whose cat hid under some furniture during a quake a few years ago, didn’t come out until 3 days later and then was so freaked out and wouldn’t calm down so they had to put it to sleep (forever). So sad. Really glad my kitties are ok. Especially the freaked out one. Once he hid in the bathtub and then my father went to pee and closed the door. My poor cat freaked out and peed himself in the bathtub! lol

  • XUP

    Ya, as TechWood said, the doorway thing is a myth or maybe an instruction for a different disaster. Most people just fled their buildings for some reason — which is the worst thing you can do in an earthquake since all sorts of stuff could be dropping from buildings. Dive under a strong piece of furniture. The basement thing is for tornadoes. Basements are not a good place during earthquakes because they’re right on top of the quaking earth, which could also crack open and swallow you whole. Anyhow, I was at work and will admit to feeling a little frightened after the first couple of seconds. It was loud and building in intensity and people were running and yelling and having an office building close to what they call a “target area” my first thought was some sort of terrorist attack.

  • The boyfriend’s sister lives in Buckingham — the epicentre. We are wondering what exactly she was doing yesterday to cause this. We live in Vancouver — have for 20 years — but are in the process of planning to move back to Ottawa. I can’t even imagine the irony of getting hit by an earthquake in Ottawa after moving away before “The Big One” hits Vancouver.

  • Rita

    I was on the 9th Floor of my building and it Really was very
    strong..Everyone went for the stairways & the whole downtown
    was full of people lining the sidewalks looking kind of startled..Some Departments were sent home but of course not mine.
    But when I got home it was like your place had fallen off the walls. Bookshelves emptied and I found my microwave tipping off my fridge.
    I am really concerned about my cottage since it is very near to Gracefield. I will keep my fingers crossed.

  • Em

    Wow, that’s crazy about your house! My apartment (in the East end) seemed to come out of it OK, thankfully. Nothing noticeably off. It’s on the 9th floor, and my kitty was the only one home, so I was a bit worried about her. One of my friends in Toronto lives on the 23rd floor of a big apartment complex, and she was VERY freaked out at the time. She said the whole building swayed! Crazy stuff.

  • Earthquake shmirthquake – what about the lovebird sex?!?!?!?!

    (Although of course I’m glad you weren’t hurt, and Duncan seems to be recovering.)

  • As you saw on my blog – yep I felt that. But I don’t think it was anywhere near what you experienced.
    I was at work in Ancaster, Ontario – I was sitting at my desk when it started to vibrate. At first it was no biggie – we are in a semi-industrial area and when a transport rolls by it rattles my desk – but it kept going. I stood up, looked out the window – no truck. By this time my co-worker had come into my doorway with a bit of a stunned look on her face (everything is still shaking). I looked at her and said,
    “That’s not a truck.”

    “No,” she replied.

    “I think it’s an earthquake,” I said calmly.

    “I think you’re right,” she replied, just as calmly, while the rest of the office heard me say earthquake and they all started freaking out.

    And then it ended and we went back to work. The whole event probably didn’t last more than 30 seconds.

    But like I said, I don’t think it was near as bad as you got. For one, there was no sound. And it wasn’t a violent shaking, more a steady rolling – like being on a lake in a boat.

    As for my cats, I’m not sure how they fared – nothing was out of place at home. Rocky was a little sucky but the other two were fine so it was probably just a fluke.

    All in all, I think it was pretty cool – a gentle reminder that mother nature still rules!

    I’m glad Duncan was okay (and that everyone else was too!)

  • Iris

    My husband and colleagues felt it on the fourth floor of an office building in Providence, Rhode Island – the building shook, and they knew without a doubt that it was an earthquake they had just experienced. I was driving and didn’t feel it.

  • I noticed the social media thing right away as well… this is the first time since I quit Facebook that I’ve thought “I need Facebook to find out what’s going on”. Waiting for the news channels to figure it out was excruciating. For whatever it’s worth, for the “mainstream media” it was NBC Detroit who broke the story — at least on my cable package, followed by CTV News Channel.

    This was my second earthquake this year, the epicentre of the last one was closer — kind of near Lachute, Quebec, but the quake was only a 3.9.

    I get nervous when these things hit, the core of my village is made up of homes built 100-150 years ago, and aren’t the kind of things people just rebuild.

    My girlfriend says she heard cracks in the walls, but so far I haven’t heard of anyone finding cracks or holes. My apartment definitely moved, though. It felt like the building was twisting.

    As far as I can tell my cat didn’t even wake up… but nothing was coming off my walls. She’ll jump a mile high if you move your foot while she’s sleeping on the couch, but the earth moves and nada.

  • I was at home and didn’t react properly. I ran around scooping up the dog & cat and by the time I got them the quake was over. We only had a few pictures fall and break. The kids were at school and never noticed. Apparently the school didn’t either because they did not evacuate the children. (?) I did get to see my neighbor outside on the street in his bathrobe…

  • Gwenie

    Actually, you’re really not supposed to stand in doorways if there is a door attached to it because it can whip shut and knock the crap out of you.

  • An engineer friend who grew up in Southern California says it’s unlikely an earthquake could get a door moving enough to whip around and hurt you. He thinks it’s more likely the frame would get out of whack and the door would get stuck in place. Which is not to say Gwenie is wrong, just that we all need more information. I like the idea of getting under a strong piece of furniture, but if a piano falls on it, I guess you’re still screwed.

  • It appears there’s a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.” I arrived at my niece’s in Ramona , CA, June 14, for my grandniece’s graduation on the 16th. That evening we were all laptopping it together in the living room when it started to rumble. I thought “thunder?” (Midwest upbringing). It was significant enough. A 5.9 about 75 miles away. The difference is that nothing toppled over. Everything is tied and bolted down.

    Hello!!??? An earthquake in Ottowa? One was also felt in Detroit within the past couple of weeks. Gaia is not happy about this oil debacle . . . among many other things.