Monday, February 28, 2011


Last week we had our first tornado siren event of the year. Everyone at work spent some quality time in the stairwell. I was on the road, running a call center. I fielded multiple concerned phone calls warning me about the impending threat headed in my direction. Luckily, steering wheel controls and Bluetooth make that a breeze (Insert GMC Terrain commercial here. I will do a testimonial.)

I remember doing tornado drills in elementary school where we crawled under rickety desks, stuck our heads between our legs, and kissed our, we didn't do that part but we did crawl under the desk. I lived in tornado alley, the corridor of Interstate 30, then. I still do. I have a brother who lost everything but the most important thing to a tornado. Tornados are familiar.

But earthquakes...not so much. In elementary school, I also learned about the New Madrid fault. If you don't know it, there was once an earthquake that caused the Mississippi River to appear to run backwards. We hear that story a lot and every once in while the warnings about another "The Big One" pop up.

Recently, there have been a lot of earthquakes north of Little Rock. Small ones, that we don't feel. Last night, there was the largest earthquake in 35 years (according to the radio), 4.7 as of this morning, that could be felt as far as Benton (zone 7), where I live.

I believe I experienced this in the woozy half-sleep that I was in as the passing thought "Was that someone knocking?" I did a half-hearted perimeter patrol and went back to sleep. After all the radio programs, I think that must have been it.

First it was dead birds.
Then it was dead fish.
Then it was a yodeling ventriloquist Miss Arkansas who nearly became Miss America.
Now it's earthquakes.

Every summer when it's hotter than Hades with a 1000% humidity, I think about moving to the West Coast and becoming a beach bum. Someone will throw at me: Earthquakes! And I respond: Tornados! Now I've got both. If we start having mudslides or hurricanes, I'm definitely out of here.

And my public service announcement for earthquake awareness follows. Photo and info come from the UALR Arkansas Earthquake Center. You're welcome.
The photo is the Roman numerals inside each band are predicted levels of damage. Here's the scale:

VI. Felt by all, many frightened. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster. Damage slight.
VII. Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.
VIII. Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial buildings with partial collapse. Damage great in poorly built structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned.
IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.
XI. Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.
XII. Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

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