Opinion: An East Coast quake, a (falsely) ho-hum West Coast

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The shaking had barely stopped from Tuesday’s magnitude-5.8 earthquake on the East Coast when the pooh-poohing began from the West Coast.

For every ‘Oh my gosh’ comment from startled folks in Virginia and elsewhere, there were the predictable ‘What’s the big deal?’ retorts from Californians.


Well, Easterners, don’t believe it. When it comes to quakes, no one gets used to them, especially not when they’re in the magnitude 5.0-plus range.

For example, in 1987, the magnitude-5.9 Whittier Narrows quake struck near my home in Pasadena. As the house shook, the chimney bricks fell and the house alarm blared, I clung to my Southern California-native girlfriend. All I could think was, it’s the Big One.

And what was Ms. SoCal thinking? That someone was breaking into our house, and why wasn’t I scrambling to defend it/her.

In 1994, when the magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake hit, its epicenter was farther away. The reaction of my now-pregnant wife and I? Panic. The same could be said of friends much nearer the epicenter -– also native Southern Californians -– as they watched in terror while their TV shot off the shelf on one side of the room and smashed into a wall on the other.

I’ve been through hailstorms, blizzards, windstorms and tornadoes. My wife has been through hurricanes.

Trust me, there is nothing as scary as an earthquake. It comes without warning. Solid ground is no longer, well, solid. You don’t know when it’s going to end.

And then, when it does end, the aftershocks start. And they often keep happening for days. And they make you afraid all over again.

So go ahead, East Coast countrymen. You’re earthquake veterans. Twitter, Facebook, text or whatever your fearful reactions.

The truth is, what most of us on the West Coast were thinking is, Thank God it wasn’t us this time.


What?! An earthquake? East Coast reacts with shock

--Paul Whitefield