Our first earthquake experience

I was sleeping when I woke up to the shaking.  I immediately knew that it “had” to be an earthquake even though the shaking felt different than I would have expected.  I rolled over to notice Anthony had not yet come to bed.  My immediate instinct was to get up and go the doorway or even leave the house, but instead I laid there trying to process what was going on (especially since I was just in a deep sleep and the shaking felt different than I would have thought).  I did jump out of bed when I heard Anthony calling my name.  I met him in the hallway to ask what time it was and to hear him say “it’s an earthquake”.  He then told me it was midnight.  The shaking continued as we were in the hallway and he called for Maree, who we are staying with.  She joined us in the living room where we found the vertical blinds moving furiously on their own, even after the shaking had stopped.  We were fortunate that where we are staying didn’t have any damage and only one picture frame fell from a shelf.

The house shaking felt like we were on a boat.  You could feel the ground rolling and shifting while the walls were rocking back and forth.  It was quite unsettling and lasted awhile.  People are saying that it is the longest earthquake they have experienced.  A mate we have in Christchurch told us that you think it is all supposed to be rigid and you wouldn’t expect it to feel the way it does when it shakes.  He said he was in Christchurch once when an earthquake hit and he watched a wave travel through the earth and down the road towards him.

Anthony and I weren’t exactly sure what to do once the shaking subsided.  We chatted with Maree for a few minutes while we were online finding out quake details.  Maree indicated that the news wouldn’t have immediate coverage like we would in the States.  She told us about a great website (www.geonet.org.nz) that gives real time status of all quakes in the country.  That’s when we learned the location of the epicenter and the magnitude.  She went to bed and we followed her lead shortly after.  We felt 2 or 3 aftershocks and have read today that there were about 50.

I was able to fall asleep within an hour and half after the initial quake.  Anthony was restless most of the night and slept on and off.  I was set to start work today.  My start time is pushed back as we have to wait for the building to be inspected before anyone can go in.

The epicenter was about 115 km away from us in Christchurch with a magnitude of 7.8.  We learned of the tsunami warning this morning.  We are staying about 13km from the beach so this didn’t directly impact us.  The warning was for people within 1 km of the coast and in low lying areas.

What we have learned –

  • Social media can be a good way to let others know you are safe. A mate in New Zealand marked himself as safe on Facebook and invited us to do the same.  This is an easy way to let others know, near and far.  Thinking back to September 11, 2011, I remember the cell service being busy so unable to contact anyone.  (These are the days before smart phones and social media.)  Without having many details of the quake and/or damage (plus it being our first one) it was better to jump on the internet while we had the chance.
  • People in Christchurch are generally “used” to earthquakes. While this one was pretty high in magnitude and lasted longer than most, they don’t let it consume them.  At this point in the day, most businesses in CBD are working business as usual.  In addition, we have already seen by the rebuild in Christchurch that the people here are resilient.  They will work to rebuild and to ensure a stronger infrastructure.
  • Earthquakes can be scary. We would have preferred our first one to be a bit smaller or not as close to home, however, there are some pluses about this one.  Anthony and I were together for it.  I am set to travel each fortnight for work and I’m sure that I would have been more frightened in a hotel by myself.  Plus, having Maree helped bring comfort.  Christchurch was “lucky” to have not been in the epicenter because it could have been devastating.  While you don’t want any town or city to get hit, Christchurch didn’t need another big one.
  • We need an earthquake plan. I had read about this before our move to New Zealand.  I had told Anthony about it then and when we first got here.  He laughed it off a bit.  I think it’s safe to say, he’s a little more on board with it now.  While we were together for this one, there will probably be a time when we will not be.  We may not be able to reach each other by cell phone or to get home.  That is when the plan comes into play.  Plus, I want to be sure we have enough food, water, and supplies in case we would lose power and water for days.  This will be important once we get a place of our own.
  • While the earthquake is scary, aftershocks aren’t very fun either. It seems as soon as you start to feel “settled” you will then feel an aftershock.  There are still aftershocks as I type this.  While we haven’t felt them, others in New Zealand are.
  • I mentioned that it felt like we were on a boat when the quake hit. This is not what I expected.  We both felt a bit “seasick” after.  While you can say that it is nerves, which I am sure played a part, it was really a physical feeling of dizziness.
  • Maree says you need to have a comfort breakfast the morning after a night quake. We couldn’t agree more because bacon is always a nice treat!
  • Maybe we should have moved to a Caribbean island like we first planned?!? But then again we would have to deal with hurricanes and other natural disasters.
  • Mother Nature likes to remind us that she is in charge. Life can change in a matter of seconds and not because of natural disasters.  Each day is a gift so be sure to not sweat the small stuff too much.

Thanks for all of the texts, messages, and emails to ensure we are safe.  We are lucky to have so many people worried about us!  Sorry for the lack of pics.  We had to get the post up quickly.  The featured image is one showing the continual rebuild since the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

2 thoughts to “Our first earthquake experience”

  1. Kristy, so glad you and Anthony seem to be safe. I worry about the tsunamis but you said you were far enough from the coast ~ hope that is the case!! Amy always tells me when I worry when they’re abroad that things can happen right here in our hometown, too. Guess that is so but being so far apart and not knowing still makes us moms worry ~ and being moms, we’re allowed to do that. 🙂

    1. Hi Joan – Thanks for checking in. We are fortunate that we didn’t have any significant damage. Sadly there was devastation about 2.5 hours north of us in Kaikoura and also in Wellington, on the North Island. There have been aftershocks all day, however, I haven’t noticed. We have been warned that it is common to have another “big” one within the next few days and it is usually a bit weaker. We’ll continue to keep everyone updated so you won’t worry too much.

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