Rockin’ the house

11:00 PM AKST Monday January 14th, 2008 3.86 ML in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska

My guest, Tracy, who is here for a month for work, gets a kick out of coming back to the B&B each night and looking up how many earthquakes happen in Alaska every day at http://www.aeic.alaska.edu/Seis/recenteqs_sub/index.html . The posting for this one, above, is one that gave a good shake, and she asked me if I felt it, too. The way this one hit, when everyone was in bed, was that it felt like the house jumped up about two inches and came back down. Depending on where the shock is centered, how deep and how big, going in which direction, each earthquake can feel different. Some feel like you’re wobbling on Jell-O, some feel like something shoved the house and then it springs back. Some make the floor ripple all the way across as they roll, and some feel like you’re in a bouncy truck on a bad road.

One good thing for my B&B is that the house is located on a small couple-acres plateau along the ridge of a terminal morraine. As the glaciers receeded from tidewater (3 miles away and 600 feet below me) to the mountains of Hatcher Pass (8 miles away and 3600 feet above me), they left behind half-moons of gravel and rock that stretch a half-mile-to-mile-wide and as much as 10 miles long. Most of the farm fields around me are located on the flat tops of a ridge, and it drops off on one side and rises higher on the other side. That drop off affords me the gorgeous, sweeping views I have of the Chugach mountain range and Knik Glacier to the south and east. The good part, though, in terms of earthquakes is that I’m sitting on hundreds of feet of gravel. That’s advantageous in a quake because they shift and slip around and generally retain a calm top surface despite the action taking place deep beneath the soils. The chances of the B&B being split in two while two plates fight it out under the surface is very, very low.

Coincidentally, the speaker at this past week’s Lion’s Club luncheon was a NOAA scientist from the Tsunami Warning Center. His Powerpoint presentation talked a lot about the increased frequency of shocks and quakes in our area. Maybe we are warming up for a big one–we’re overdue!

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