Friday, March 11, 2011

What a Tsunami Warning is Like

Here's the best way to explain a tsunami warning for those of you who haven't been through one, my dear mainland friends, using a natural disaster I expect you might be more familiar with except under different circumstances:
Your drive home is interrupted by the wailing of the earthquake alarms. Normally you only here these for a minute at the beginning of each month as the state tests the system. But this is not then. Your stomach knots just a little, whether you want it to or not. Nothing on the radio yet so you turn on the news as soon as you get home. Doesn't matter which station, all of them have made the all-call to anchors and all of them have the exact same information. No scoops to worry about.
The harried-looking anchor on the screen tells you that the Earthquake Detection Station located in the Pacific ocean registered a large disturbance. From their models and previous experience, this means that and earthquake will hit where you live. In about six hours. And it will be at least a magnitude 7 quake. Well, it could be at least a magnitude 7. It might be less, but better not to worry about that. Be prepared. Here are areas near where you live which are most earthquake-prone. If you live there, move. Grab some stuff and get to one of these safe areas, which are also marked in your Yellow Pages. Remember, this earthquake will probably be here in about six hours.
The anchor will then say that if you do not live in one of the earthquake-prone danger zones on the map you should stay put. Leave the roads clear for evacuating people. This statement is accompanied by on-the-scene footage of grocery stores and gas stations being suddenly slammed with customers ignoring what anchor-guy just said. Target sells out of bottled water and Shell runs out of Regular. You know, because after the earthquake you'll be doing a lot of driving. Footage like this will run all night, along with video of the guys heading towards the earthquake-prone areas, planning to climb the high buildings and either have themselves a serious End of the World party or measure their dicks and see how tough and unafraid they are in the face of possible tragedy.
At home you try to keep calm and relaxed. Chances are good this will be nothing, just like the last time they issued an earthquake warning and nothing happened. Barely shook the chandelier. But its hard to do with the news on, giving the same information over and over, anchors tossing desperately to the traffic guy for the sixth time like maybe now he'll have something insightful to say on live tv. Anchors announcing that in ten minutes they'll be going back to another live interview with one of the experts at the Earthquake Detection Center, who will be asked the same questions and will try not to look annoyed as he give the same answers, the only answers he has. This isn't an exact science. You check the Facebook a lot because the social network seems to have as much information as the news, its how you're keeping tabs on your friends in the area and what their plans are, and because this is how your friends in Hawaii are contacting you to make sure you're ok. Which is nice. But you kind of wonder how they all found out about it so quickly. The earthquake happened at night on Thursday. Your friends are at home watching the news? Or Facebook is the news and one person posted something about the earthquake warning and it spread like ripples in a pond?
Over and over you get the same information. The earthquake will hit at about 3:07am (about 3:07? That awful exact for an "about".). It will be a 7.0, unless its not. From now on, even if you try to sleep, try to relax, there is still that anticipation. You know earthquakes, you know 7.0, and you know that there is a chance that number is way too high. The third know doesn't help keep the first two knows from making your wife nervous enough to pace and clean the house for something to do. Finally, you fill a bunch of water bottle, charge your cell phones, pull out the futon, and switch between Doctor Who on Netflix and the news and eventually fall in to a fitful sleep, broken by earthquake warning sirens and your brain waking itself up to check the news.
You actually manage to sleep through the quake they have been promoting like its Charlie Sheen's latest tweet or Stephanie Meyers latest excretion. It was bigger than the last one, but not big enough to rattle your shelves or move your picture frames.
Better to be safe than sorry, but that night of waiting for an earthquake sucked, didn't it? Ruined your sleep, which impacts the whole next day.
Which brings me to why this is on my workout blog. I'm exhausted and will be skipping my planned swim and run today. The tsunami adventure was compounded for me by the fact that I spent the whole night feeling like I was going to and wanting to puke, before I was finally able to puke at about 5:30am. This, I'm sure, was unrelated to tsunami stress, I think I ate something weird. So sick all night plus tsunami equals missing a day of workout. Yes, this pisses me off.


  1. I dig the "pointed-finger" tone of this post. Hope people get their acts together by tomorrow and that you get back on schedule. Actually, that last one isn't a hope, it's just an expectation.

  2. Stay safe man. I was thinking about you when I heard the news this morning.

  3. Yeah. I know what its like to be in a 7.0 WITHOUT warning (think Loma Prieta 1989 on the 9th floor of a 12 story building in San Jose, CA). At least I didn't lose sleep before the quake, but trying to find a place to sleep after being evacuated without cash, ID, credit card or even proper clothing will cause a bit of insomnia.

    Hope things are getting back to normal for you and you're safe now. I'm looking forward to a trip to Maui in June. Can't wait!