Better earthquake post coming soon

16 October 2006

At about 7:10 yesterday morning, we felt a pretty good earthquake at our house. Living, as we do, on an active volcano and about five miles as the `alala flies from Pu`u O`o (the active vent on Kilauea), this isn’t that wierd. Except that I was standing outside in the road and I felt it pretty strongly, watching trees swaying back and forth. Our house is built with post-and-pier construction, common out here because the lots are frequently not all that level. It provides the added bonus, however, of doing the same thing the Japanese now spend millions designing their office buildings to do: shimmy so they don’t break. Elle reports that from her observations inside the house (under a doorwaydon’t try to run outside, kids) she expected to hear dishes breaking as they cascaded to the floor, but in fact the shelves moved with the house. Our sum total damage was one box of cookies that fell off its shelf. The aftershock about ten minutes later was slightly less strong and definitely shorter–ten seconds, compared with nearly a minute for the first quake. A third felt aftershock at about 10:30a.m. was barely worth mentioning. Elle didn’t even wake up from her nap.
With all radio stations knocked out, our most expedient mode of getting information was to drive the firehouse in Volcano. Noni, the font of all wisdom, had already hear that it was relatively big (prelim 6.5 magnitude, see below) and centered near Pu`uanahulu, on the west side of the island. Subsequent reports would place the quake center offshore, but County Civil Defense did an excellent job of getting the word out that there was no forecast tsunami.
As it happened, not only was the quake not centered near us, our region of the island suffered the least damage. Waiakoloa Village was the closest place with a post office to the epicenter, and they got rocked pretty hard, although no reports of structural damage. But as of yesterday about noon, pretty much every road on the North side of the island was closed. Saddle road remained open, and the entire Ka`u district fared well, save for some rocks on the road in Ocean View. But if you’ve ever been to Ocean View, it would only be news if there weren’t rock on the road. Hamakua coast highway, Kawaihae, Hawi Mountain Road, and both the upper and lower roads from Waimea to Kona remain closed in various places. The Volcano Fire Department stayed true to ourselves (motto: Always Ready, Rarely Paged) but in fact, the Hawai`i Fire Department reported no calls for assistance received due to the earthquake.
The confusion over what roads were closed seems to have been the biggest impact yesterday. The Kona hospital was initially evacuated, but then reopened. A bunch of schools are closed today, and lots of buildings are being evaluated. Some places lost water or power yesterday, but many are back online. In short, no big deal.
Unfortunately, the Hawai`i Volcano Observatory ‘Current Eqs Map’ is down from excessive traffic, but if you want a map, the IRIS seisic monitor is very good. Hawaii Tribune Herald webpage has some photos, but registration is required beyond the ‘front page.’ Also check out the Center for the Study of Active Volcanos page on natural hazards in Hawai`i, which has some excellent preparedness information.
The promised (and truly forthcoming, but maybe not until tomorrow) post will contain information on the not-so-critical difference between ‘center,’ and ‘epi-center,’ and the slightly more important one between the Richter Scale magnitude and the moment magnitude.
So, with roads closed and various utilities crippled, what did we do? Settled in for a beautiful afternoon at home–the wind was blowing (oddly) out of the South, but skies were clear and temperature was right around 70. In fact, we dragged out our hand-crank pasta maker and made a batch of fresh fettucine. I’ll let you know how it tastes.


One Response to “Better earthquake post coming soon”

  1. […] IMHO, Oahu Civil Defense Agency missed an opportunity to up their street cred after the recent fallout from actual earthquakes. Their ‘Latest Information Updates,’ web page dates from more than six months ago and alludes to the 7/7 transit bombings in London more than a year ago. This seems to be both a classic moment of Security Theater and an opportunity for citizens to do as Bruce Schneier suggests and refuse to be terrorized while demanding better disaster response planning. In contrast, Hawai`i County Civil Defense has a brief, sane, and highly germane message. It looks like what people like Howard Dicus and Doug Carlson are calling for: greater efforts for government transparency and public education. […]

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