Friday, March 21, 2008

Have you seen this weather?

And this is why I live in California. I don't have to live in fear of tornadoes. I don't have to shovel snow; I don't even have to see snow unless I feel like driving to it. I don't have to worry about hurricane season. And despite how many of my other statesmen feel, rain is a good thing.

I can remember spending hours in the basement the first time I lived outside of Louisville, Kentucky during the plague of tornadoes in the 70s. Luckily the basement was finished and nice, and I was too young to be really upset when the power went out. But remember my mother's fear of the possibility of the tornado, and her being afraid for my dad who was at work. We followed Dick Gilbert's constant updates on the paths of the tornadoes from his traffic helicopter.

The second time I was in Louisville we didn't really have any tornadoes that I remember, but when I was in Lexington for grad school and living with my aunt and cousin there was a tornado that skirted the southern portion of the city. My aunt's house didn't have basement, so to be safe, the three of us and Blackie the Whippet all crowded into the master bathroom which had no windows or outside walls. Now while I say "master bathroom" it was not really that big. Cousin Lee (over 6 feet tall and of stocky build) sat in the bathtub holding the dog, my aunt sat against the wall by the sink, and me? I got to sit against another wall with my legs straddling the toilet. Needless to say, Lee and I quickly got tired of this and got up to walk around. So where did we go? We went to the dining room with it's large sliding glass door and watched the lightning play across the sky. Nothing happened to us or the house, but all those thoughts always come to mind when people say, "Wouldn't you rather live somewhere cheaper? Maybe without earthquakes?"

To which I say, "Earthquakes may cause more destruction, but you can build for them to minimize the damage. And tornadoes have an annoying tendency to turn around to go for the houses that they missed."

And remember my profession: I'm a geologist. I like earthquakes. In the early 80s we had a bunch of earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of them were centered in Livermore near Lawrence National Laboratories. And what did they always show on the news? The plutonium stockpile. That's when I say it takes more than a rocket scientist or a nuclear physicist to intelligently plan for earthquakes.

I also remember going to the San Francisco Zoo and hearing all of the animals going berserk. We stopped for some food, and then went into the zoo. While we there a 5.4 (5.8?) quake hit. The liquor store next to the deli we ate at was on the news showing the broken bottles.

Then on October 17, 1989 at 5:00 PM where am I? Sacramento. Around 5:15 I get a call from a friend asking if my parents are okay, I tell him as far as I know, but thanks for asking. He says, that there was an earthquake south of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge had collapsed (yes, I know it didn't but we didn't know that). That's when the fun began. Dad had a cell phone and still couldn't get through. I ended up hearing from a family friend in Louisiana telling me he had heard from Dad and that he and mom were both okay. And did you know that Alaska's Long distance goes through California (or at least it used to). I had an aunt and uncle who were cut off until the circuits relaxed.

Then for Northridge, I was actually outside of Death Valley near Fort Irwin. No biggy there.

Now that I've been back in the Bay Area, I've felt a few, but there's been nothing big for a while. And still I say, I need not fear the green sky.

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