FIRST IT WAS Harvey battering Houston and southeast Texas, and now you can add Hurricane Irma to the list of natural disasters as it bears down on Miami and the Florida peninsula.
Hurricanes are terribly destructive things, but for most Californians, they’re something we never experience because the ocean off our coast is simply too cold. Pacific hurricanes always break up by the time they reach Baja California, sending us tropical moisture and a little humidity, but not much else.
What Californians do get, however, are questions from people who live somewhere else who like to ask something along the lines of, “How do you deal with all the earthquakes out there?”
When I get into discussions with people over things like this, the conversation always turns to a comparison of which natural disaster you would rather put up with: earthquakes or hurricanes?
Which is worse – earthquake or hurricane?
People who live in the hurricane zone always make the point that at least with a hurricane, you know it’s coming and can get out of the way. With earthquakes, they note, you never know when they’re going to happen.
There’s some truth to this. If you’ve ever felt the rumble of an earthquake, or the terrible clatter of a house shaking as the ground moves under it, you know it’s a scary feeling.
But even though I have felt a lot of earthquakes during my lifetime, they’ve never been as bad as what Houston has been going through, or what Floridians are expecting.
All my life I’ve heard warnings of “The Big One” that is expected to hit California, a giant earthquake on one end or the other of the famous San Andreas fault. There have been warnings for years, and geologists say that we’re long overdue for a mega-earthquake to hit when either the northern or southern end of the San Andreas finally fractures.
Yes, ‘The Big One” is coming, but I may never, ever see it.
Experiencing 2 big earthquakes 3 hours apart
The worst earthquake I’ve ever experienced hit on June 28, 1992 when a 7.3 quake hit near the desert town of Landers, some 100 miles east of Los Angeles, at 5 am on a Sunday morning. I had young children at the time, and the shaking of the house not only woke them up, but it scared the hell out of all of us.
After the big quake shook us out of bed, we checked to see if everyone was OK, made our phone calls to friends and neighbors, and eventually tried to go back to sleep.
But more sleep wasn’t in the game plan.
About three hours later at 8 am, a second, 6.3 magnitude quake hit near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. Although it didn’t shake the house quite as severely as the first one, the second quake was probably a lot more frightening because our nerves were already jangled from the first one.
Between the two quakes, 400 people were injured and $92 million in damages were suffered. The physical damage was also significant. The quakes triggered landslides that wiped out roads and opened a 44-mile-long rupture in the earth, the biggest in California since the 1906 San Francisco quake.
As bad as that sounds, it’s really pretty minor compared to the damage in Houston, or what they expect this week in Florida.
I’ve felt a lot of other earthquakes, from small jolts to moderate shakers, and I know The Big One is out there and will eventually hit one end of the state or the other. We don’t dwell on that out here, but it is always in the back of our minds.
One natural disaster is as bad as another
Here’s my point: Although I’ve never experienced a hurricane, they seem to be a lot worse than any earthquake I’ve never experienced, although I’d probably feel differently if we ever had one similar to the 8.1 magnitude quake that hit Mexico this week.
Yes, count me as one Californian who would rather deal with earthquakes than hurricanes, and I suspect a lot of others out here feel the same.
In the end, however, one Act of God is a bad as the next.
Whether it be an earthquake or hurricane, tsunami or tornado, ANY natural disaster is something that no thinking person ever wants to go through — and it’s silly and stupid to debate if you would prefer one or the other.
They call them natural disasters for a reason. To me, that’s all I need to know.