Then the Ground Shook!

Bill Haley and His Comets were one of the early Rock Bands. In 1969, they came out with a song that stayed Number One on the Hit Parade charts for weeks — “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”

Fast forward half a century.

It was 10:03 AM, July 4, 2019, that I felt the first little jiggle while tapping away on the computer keyboard in my office. Nothing unusual. I live in Ridgecrest, up in the northwest corner of California’s share of the Great Mojave Desert. I knew the general area, known as the Indian Wells Valley, seemed to be in constant motion recording upwards of 200 seismic events every day, almost all of them magnitude 1s and 2s. Now and then a temblor would reach into the 3 or 4 zone and jiggle my chair. I felt this and almost immediately forgot about it.

Thirty minutes later, precisely at 10:33, the floor began to SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL! as a magnitude 6.4 earthquake unleashed its enormous energy! The three or four seconds that it actually lasted seemed like 30 or 40! Those four seconds were terrifying! And then it was over. I didn’t even have time to duck and cover…, but I held on to my work surface like crazy. I’m surprised I didn’t leave fingerprints in the Formica top.

In the few seconds it took to meet my son, Geoff, in the kitchen, the electricity had blinked off and back on. around, I saw the kitchen was still in order. Except that I could hear my printer clicking and whirring as it rebooted, everything seemed…, well, normal.

As if to remind me that something extraordinary had occurred a magnitude 5.4 aftershock rumbled in and shook the house again for a couple seconds.

I clicked the remote to turn on the TV and was presented with a blank screen. More than 150 miles from the LA basin, our television programming comes from a relay station on a mountain between here and there. The relay was down. It would be hours before power was restored to Laurel Mountain.

Meanwhile, Geoff and I surveyed our emergency situation. I had already checked and determined our gas line was secure. My water comes from a well pumped into a storage tank topside. The pump had shut down, but we had a few hundred gallons in the storage tank and another 20 or so gallons in containers. With the power back online the refrigerator and freezer held many days, weeks of food, no need to haul out my “two people for 30 days” cache. The walls and roof were secure so we had shelter. During the aftermath Verizon Wireless was up and working and I was able to contact my other three prodigies and assure them of our safety and security. My computer was back in operation via my Frontier DSL connection.

We were in good shape.

I confess to moving the car out of the garage (just in case) and spending a restless night.

And then just after 8 PM the following night — SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL! as a magnitude 7.1 quake slammed across the IWV! According to the earthquake pundits, this was the strongest earthquake in Southern California in two decades.

As I put the period at the end of the above sentence a 4+ rattled through the house. The same pundits virtually guarantee after shocks like that will continue for weeks, maybe months.

My damages were limited to trivial stuff: a plant to repot, one fluorescent tube shaken out of a fixture in the garage, a birdbath toppled and smashed beyond repair, and one glass vase memento demolished. Others in the community were damaged far worse: one house destroyed by fire and some mobile homes shaken off their foundations. The nearby community of Trona was devastated.

Lots of people slept in their yards for more than a couple nights.