Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake!

Just before 4:40am, I was awakened by a noise. The closet door was banging against its frame, and the handles on the dresser were clinking against the wood. In my sleepy condition, I didn't know what was going on, but surmised that some heavy truck was rolling by, or the wind was blowing so hard outside that it was shaking the house. I glanced out the window into the darkness and couldn't see a truck, but noticed that the trees weren't moving at all. What the hell? After a few seconds, everything returned to normal, and I fell back asleep.

When I awoke for the day hours later, I learned that I had lived through an earthquake. The 5.2 temblor was centered in Belmont, Illinois, some 130 miles east of us, so we didn't take the brunt of it, but it's the first time I've felt my home shimmying on its foundation. We got a replay around 10:20am when an aftershock hit and I felt more of the same.

Interestingly, my daughter's guinea pig didn't make a sound either time. You always hear how animals are so much more attuned to nature than we are, how they feel the beginnings of a natural disturbance like a quake before humans do. Maybe that's true of animals with four feet on the ground or the floor, but this one, in its cage atop a bookcase in my daughter's bedroom, didn't make a sound. Neither did my daughter, who was furious when she got up for school and learned she had slept through the quake.

Most of the news media slept through it, too, so they're now playing catch-up. With no major damage to report, they have reporters doing live shots from university geology departments (with that very exciting video of a seismograph with the pen scratch from the shock wave that happened hours ago) or from buildings here and there that lost a couple of bricks or developed a slight crack in one wall. Fox 2 and NewsChannel 5 are both showing a loop from a few seconds of convenience store surveillance video that shows the place shaking a little bit and one bottle of Diet Coke toppling over. News 4 has a live shot from under the elevated Highway 40 section that most resembles the Bay Area highway that collapsed in their huge quake nearly two decades ago -- but there's no damage.

They all have the usual cavalcade of earthquake experts and insurance professionals getting their few minutes of camera time, but every one of those outlets wishes they had footage like this (in Sensurround!)...


Unfortunately, even in the YouTube era, the only other contemporaneous footage is from a TV station in Evansville, Indiana, that was on the air at the time of the tremor...