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On friday evening there was an earthquake in LA, 5.1 on the richter scale, epicentre 4km from where we were, at a depth of 1km. A series of facts I’ve never had much of a comprehension of before. It was gone 9pm, the kids were sleeping in their beds in our hotel room. It felt like a very large truck was passing by, except that it didn’t go by. The floor was shaking around. It took three or four seconds to register that the whole room was shaking. A few seconds more before ’what is it? …Is it an… It is an earthquake!’ All very calmly. I guess you can’t be thrown into a panic when it actually takes so long to even register what’s happening. The whole room was still shaking.

My immediate (possibly very naive) thought process: Ok, it’s an earthquake! This is what is, this is what it’s going to be, so it’s ok, everyone’s ok, no need to panic!

Having thought through that, the whole building was still shaking. More the feeling of standing on a giant jelly. Mr M and I were stood up in the middle of the room. We weren’t falling around. Nothing was on the edge of any surface. Nothing was rolling around or falling to the floor. The lamp on the ceiling was swinging around. It seemed to calm down, but not obvious at all whether it had stopped completely or not. Neither of us knew if the building was still shaking. The lamp was still swinging – but less. I looked out the window. The few cars that were out were still driving. Was the ground still shaking or was it just us? Should we be grabbing our three sleeping children and doing something?


We opened our door. The first floor of a two story wooden building, with a balcony going along the front joining each door to the outdoor stairs. Two other guests were already out. Smoking. ’Was that what we thought it was?´ seems everyone thought the same. ’Erm, so what exactly should we have been doing just then?’ Mr M thought we should get ourselves under a table, or a doorframe. The Canadian outside believed in immediately exiting the building and getting away from it. The local believed we’d have time to practice as aftershocks were common place.

Back in the room we wanted to have a plan.

Do we have too many children to be able to rescue them? What a horrible thought! Grabbing our three sleeping children and carrying them out of the room and along the wooden railed balcony to go down shaking stairs with them – that’s not going to be safe! …Straight onto google – and thank God for the internet!!

Aftershocks, yes, that was going to happen. Within an hour or two, or a day or two, or a week or two!

What not to do in an earthquake: 

Do not attempt to exit the building! Studies show more injuries are caused in the process of exiting, or by falling building debris having once exited. You’re supposed to stay put! Get under a table. Stay in bed & cover your head with a pillow. Get away from glass or things that could fall on you.

Do not get under a doorway! Apparently modern doorways are not strong. Old school doorways are not strong, unless in a load-bearing wall. If you don’t know it is load-bearing, don’t go under it! Get against an internal wall instead.


We moved the girls bed away from the window, and Mr 1’s cot to an internal wall. We stayed up. Twitter. Facebook. A few much  smaller aftershocks, not long enough for much reaction. The stupid thing perhaps is that we still just stood there, waiting to see, were they going to get worse or was that it? React immediately as if the worst is upon you? Or wait and see? We waited.

You can’t know when it’s going to happen. We went to bed.

Facebook reactions ranging from ’cool, I’m jealous’ to ’OMG what are you doing there’; ’wow, awesome’ to ’I’m expecting hourly updates that you’re ok’. I’m reminded how different we all are. To all the ’wow’ comments Mr M thinks, well they don’t have children! …But the reality of how different we are was comforting too …I thought it was quite exciting. There was the sudden adrenalin rush and an overwhelming feeling that we’re going to handle this. We’re going to do whatever it takes and be ok here. Naive? Probably. An irrepressible state of mind? I guess it must be!


The Reading Residence

We left for San Diego, as previously planned.

The aftershocks continue. The news report on the continued damage.

My word of the week: EARTHQUAKE


  1. You timed your holiday right, but at least no one was hurt. Experiencing the earth moving is weird and takes some getting used to. The first time I felt the earth move for real my husband had nothing to do with it….But don’t tell him that!

    Zakynthos, where I live, is actually situated on an active fault line. We regularly experience earthquakes and tremors and in schools they actually do earthquake drills as opposed to fire drills..Still sounds strange to me.

    The main thing we have taught our children is not to panic. Panic injures more people than the actual earthquake here. Luckily we live in the sticks so there are no buildings around us if we do feel a biggie and feel the need to go outside.

    Now the question is…Would you go back to LA having experienced an earthquake there and knowing they are prone to them?

    • That’s the question all right!! We were in California for 5 1/2 weeks. It all started in LA, this was just days after landing! We looped back around later in our trip and chose not to go so close that time around 😉
      I think we definitely would… But we’d be a lot more picky about where we’d stay. More aware of nothing hanging over the bed, and pulling beds out from under windows!
      Do you feel ’used to it’ now? Or just as uncertain every time? Living on a fault line puts priorities in a slightly different order absolutely! Earthquakes over fires then – just how it is.

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