Six Minutes to Obliteration

As a kid, I was secretly afraid of tsunamis.  Paddling around the ocean and jumping over waves, I kept a careful eye on the horizon, watching for those 100 foot waves that were the stuff of legend.

Then I grew up and put such childish fears behind me.  I didn’t know that there was nothing foolish about my fears.  But now I get it.

2004: 230,000 dead from the tsunami that swamped 14 countries around the Indian Ocean.  2010: over 700 people swept away in Chile.  2011: no estimate available yet.

How long does it take to destroy a town? Six minutes, as it turns out…


Living in Los Angeles, 200 yards from the Sierra Madre fault and an uncomfortable 40 miles from the San Andreas fault, earthquakes are a part of my life. Some 25 years ago, we chose a house that sits on bedrock, is on the cut side of the hill (the fill side of the hill is subject to far more violent shaking), and is next door to the geologist who did the original analysis for our development. When Dr. Lucy Jones bought a house up the street, we felt that we had done as well as we could in terms of choosing a relatively safe place.

Who knew that the best part of our decision is that we’re not near the coast?

Note: For a powerful in-person recount of the earthquake, please check out Jim Grisanzio’s blog.


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