A Bus Just Hit the House

Last night, at about 8:40, a bus hit our house. The house slammed forward and then back and stuff downstairs made out of glass rattled around. The only trouble is we’re not on a bus route. We are, however, on the Hayward Fault, which runs directly behind our house and is slated to swallow us all up sometime in the next thirty years. The thing that ran into our house last night was a 4.2 magnitude reminder of that apocalyptic possibility.

The USGS (the United States Geological Survey) calls an earthquake like that a “light” earthquake. I’m glad they don’t do food labelling. If they did, we’d all be obese — these people don’t know what light really means.  That bus hitting the house thing was no “light” experience. It was heartpoundingly scary and unsettling. Houses are not supposed to move. And if you look at this link, and scroll down to where yesterday’s 4.2 earthquake is highlighted in red, you’ll see that after it were a bunch of little jolts and sqeaks. Those get called “minor.” Maybe so. But this weekend, while I’m gone with some friends, my husband is putting together a major earthquake kit.

An earthquake kit is enough food, and drink and medicine and money and water and batteries and flashlights and blankets and booze to keep you going for a while — probably a long while, given the government’s predilection for not rescuing Americans who’re victims of natural disasters. Our trouble is that we always end up eating the peanut butter and soup we’ve stashed away in the earthquake kit and we can’t seem to ever find the camping stove to put in there. And when we need extra money or a flashlight — well, there’s always the earthquake kit.

This weekend, that will be fixed. Now we just have to remember to stand under a doorway or duck & cover under the piano next time the bus hits the house. Our impulse to stare at each other with our mouths open will not serve us well when that 4.2 minibus of an earthquake becomes a 7.2 freight train.

Have a safe and fabulous weekend.


34 thoughts on “A Bus Just Hit the House

  1. Sorry to hear about what must have been a very frightening experience (though I like the metaphor!). I’m glad to hear your earthquake kit will be ready soon, just in case. Also glad that you’re all okay.

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  3. I was staying in Berkeley in August ’89 and I remember being waken up at night by a frantic hostess and ending up in my pyjamas in the street with many neighbors in pyjamas or dressing gowns. It felt totally surrealistic. The air was warm, the street was completely still, and yet everybody seemed terrorised. As if people suddenly paid for all the days when they had been oblivious of the sword of Damocles.

    I have found it in the database: the quake had been a magnitude 5.4, but the epicenter had been in Santa Cruz (I would not have slept through a bus crash).

  4. We don’t get earthquakes in England – at least that’s the accepted wisdom. But, like so much accepted wisdom, it’s wrong. We had a 5.0 quake four years ago and a friend of mine described it in almost exactly the same way as you have done. He said, “I thought a lorry had run into the front of the house.” Like you, we’re on a fault line and now I know what I’m loking out for it’s perfectly easy to pick up the very minor tremors that we get about every eight or nine weeks. At the moment I find them quite comforting on the grounds that the Earth is letting off steam gradually rather than letting it build up for a big one. That’s my way of handling it, I suppose.

  5. Hehe…loved the way you said thank God they don’t do food labelling.
    Couldn’t stop from laughing out loud!!

    BTW, more seriously, Thank God you’re safe. I know, earthquakes can be bad.
    Thankfully I have never been in or around the epicenter of one, but the great Bhuj Earthquake(in Gujarat, India) of 2001 (I hope I’m right about the year), which destroyed half of Gujarat, did affect even us, in New Delhi, a bit.

  6. Great title! And glad you’re safe. I remember the English quake Ann mentions. My only other memorable earthquake moment was in Aachen, soon after supermum and I started seeing each other. Stuff fell off shelves, rooms moved in a way they shouldn’t and everyone ran out of their appartments. “Was that an earthquake?” we said to each other. Then, because it had evidently stopped and we were in Germany, everyone went back to bed.

  7. wow, very very bad luck! are houses protected from earthquakes by insurance? seeing that your house is right on the fault line… was the damage bad?

    if you’re blogging, means you’re (almost) okay. 😉

  8. Scary. It always boggles the mind when one reads euphemistic classifications such as a “light” earthquake. I sometimes check the California plate tremors, and 3.0 tremors are quite routine. But the scale is logarithmic so 4.0 is ten times more powerful, and was probably quite a shake, because you are sitting right on the fault line. Very glad that you are all OK.

    At 8:40 pm, I was at the gym struggling stupidly with a barbell on my chest, so it is just as well that we didn’t get the tremors across the bay. ;).

  9. Ack! How scary! I take it everyone was okay? Was that a city bus that hit your house? I hate snow and it lasts a lot longer, but I think I will take that over an earthquake any day! Get your emergency kit together and stay safe!

  10. Oh, my goodness! I do remember those “buses” from my time living in California. One time I was cooking on a hot day and thought I was fainting because the room suddenly starting swaying around me. It wasn’t until I looked out the window and saw waves in the swimming pool that I realized it wasn’t me, it was the earth. I’m glad you’re all okay. It’s always such a weird thing to experience. Hope you have a good, restful weekend.

  11. Hi bloglily,

    Glad it wasn’t too serious… we get occasional shakers in BC too and if you look at a geographical plot, little ones are happening all the time just about everywhere, although that’s not much consolation when they start rattling your house.

    Earthquake kits, especially extra water and a battery radio, are a good idea in these zones… Supposedly enough essentials for 72 hours they say up here, although when you consider how crippled everything becomes with a major event like an inch or two of snow at rush hour, more provisions are probably better.


  12. BL, Your bus metaphor is exactly how I described the experience — what I thought had happened, in fact — when there was a similar magnitude earthquake here in the Midwest about 20 years ago. I was at work and there were several quick jolts and the building rocked. All of the books on the shelf above my desk fell; I barely had time to jump up from my desk and move away as they tumbled. It was a big story on the news for about a week here although there was no damage. Just doesn’t happen too often here, although a quake along the New Madrid fault in the early 1800’s was one of the largest ever recorded in the US and suppossedly made the Mississippi River flow backwards. I’m glad I don’t live some place quake-prone like CA. I think I have felt every slight tremor that’s been noted around here in the last 30 years. I once told my husband how I had forgotten to tell him there had been a tremor a few days before. He thought I was nuts, until he spent far too much time online to find, in fact, I was right.

  13. BL, I hope your house didn’t get any damage! The only earthquake I experienced was a very light one in Taiwan, I was alone, and I didn’t understand what happened… Wish you a nice weekend!

  14. Oh, man, I’m glad everyone is okay! That sounds quite frightening — yes, do get your earthquake kit together, so you all will be provided for, if need be!

  15. My sentiments. I lived on the San Andreas fault for many years and earthquakes were common but never routine. “Bus” is an accurate description…one day as a teenager I angrily sat up in my bed to find out why my mother was shaking my bed but no one was there and looking out the window I could see the garden actually ripple. It felt as if someone were standing at the end of my bed, hands on the long bed posts, and shaking it back and forth. (It is all in a matter of seconds but it always feels like a lifetime.) I’m living in Maine now after 47 years in Northern California. Always have a kit. Loma Prieta is still a fresh memory. We have a kit as well…for severe storms although there are quakes here too! Nothing like in California, yet, however.

  16. I remember those occasional buses, not very fondly, I must admit. Getting together an emergency kit is a very good idea. Waiting until after the cataclysmic event is too late. Around here, we tend to think about getting ready for tornados. Same sort of preparation. Just make sure that your earthquake kit is somewhere where you will be able to find it if your house has fallen down. My tornado kit is in the tornado shelter. Glad you didn’t have a lot of damage.

  17. I have only ever felt one earthquake – back in 1967 a year after I had married. The spousal person had been brought up in New Guinea where quakes are common. She kept saying “Gooria, Gooria” which seemed silly at the time. It was pidgin for “Earthquake, get the Hell out of here” and I just stood there with my mouth open!
    With your eathquake kit, do as I do with my cyclone kit. Double check all perishables once a year. I have picked April Fools Day (Apr1st) for this annual check. That is also the day I change batteries in smoke alarms.

  18. I live in Japan, the whole nation more or less a fault line. Hardly a month goes by without a tremor, often a severe one. One gets used to it, but there is always the assumption that it is going to stop..right…now – just like the last time and the last thirty years of times. Some day, of course, it will not stop (in Tokyo the next really “big one” is years overdue), but we always hope and pray (selfishly) that it will come while we’re abroad on holiday. Anyway, you have an understanding reader here, and I’m glad yours stopped when it did!

  19. Glad to hear it wasn’t worse. I’ve gotten pretty used to the mild house-swaying that happens quite regularly here (Japan), and am rather in denial about the “big one” that’s overdue. But that reminds me that I need to check our earthquake kit and probably restock a few things. Hope the ground stays calm for you for a while.

  20. Back from a weekend away and would like to announce (a) earthquake kit has been ordered (too many items to put together in a weekend) and (b) a sleepy child said to me a moment ago, “hey, mom?” (yes?) “remember that earthquake?” As though it had happened about fifty years ago.

    That’s what enables us to live here. An earthquake lasts about ten seconds and scares the heck out of you and then becomes the past. Here on the edge of the continent, we live in the present and the future, apparently.

    Anyway, these old Berkeley houses have seen a lot of earth movement, and have been bolted to their foundations and the hot water heaters properly positioned and so we are as ready as we can be for the next time it happens. Also, now that our earthquake kit, full of energy bars and light sticks and bandaids, is coming in the next few days, I’m ready for the apocalypse!

    xo, BL

  21. BL–I’m glad you’re okay. I remember those “minor” quakes we would get every so often. I was in Berkeley for that not-so-minor earthquake in October, 1989. That was something.

  22. How very terrifying! I was over in Sonoma County when that earthquake hit, and we were surprised that we felt nothing.

    People in Ohio always blanch with fear when I tell them that I grew up in CA– they say, “Oh, those earthquakes must be awful.” But I actually never felt one until I moved to Cleveland. It happened in the middle of the day and my first thought– my first ridiculous thought– was that all that noise and shaking was because my husband was using the vacuum cleaner’s carpet beating attachment on the hardwood floors.

    I saw something in an REI catalog that would be good in a disaster kit– it’s a battery powered thing that purifies drinking water with UV light. (I think that was how it worked)

  23. Hey Hob, I was on vacation when the Loma Prieta earthquake happened in 1989, and away on my honeymoon when the Oakland Hills fire happened in 1991. Imagine the guilt I feel at not sharing those important bay area experiences with my friends and colleagues, all of whom, oddly enough, now seem to leave town when we do, under the impression as they are that our leaving town is somehow related to the onset of enormous natural disasters.

    Hello Kristin, I was in Sonoma this weekend — on my way to Mendocino. It was a great weekend to be here and I hope you had a fun, productive time! I didn’t know vacuum cleaners had carpet beating attachments, but I can imagine those are thwackingly loud. A few minutes before this minor earthquake, one of my boys had been jumping from the bed to the futon on the floor, doing a little forward roll on the way out, and he was pretty sure the shaking was due to his efforts. It’s funny how we try to give unearthly experiences some logical explanation.

  24. Bloglily,
    Glad it was just a “minor” one! I am sure that you were shook up. Putting together a kit and a plan is a great idea. I would also suggest having earthquake drills, that way you won’t just sit there staring with your mouths agape, you will simply react as you have practiced to do.

  25. TBM — THAT is one fabulous, smart idea. We do indeed need to have a drill, particularly if, at the end of it, we get to break into the earthquake kit and eat something that’s been put in there to provide solace in the event of an emergency. (But only if we replace it the next day.)

  26. Glad to hear you’re okay. I still remember the earthquake that hit when I was a child (have no idea what is was on the richter scale). It scared me to death.

  27. Gosh, I just saw this post.

    I felt the quake, too, but surprisingly, doesn’t seem to have hit as bad for me, probably a mile away from your house. Nothing fell, but I did notice a few new spider cracks in the ceiling and walls. My kitty Colette and I sort of locked eyes for a few seconds as the house shivered. (Mambo was hidden under the bed, wise soul.)

    My minimum protection is to keep fresh water supplies at all times. One reason being: The levees at the Sacramento Delta could be compromised, and the fresh water supply for the STATE of California could be contaminated with seawater.

    I also try to keep a hidden $20 around in case ATMs fail.

    Good reminders, BL!

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