Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Waiting for the chimney to come crashing down

For the 28 years and 10 months we've lived in our house, I've meant to get earthquake insurance.
After a pretty good-sized quake eight or 10 years ago, I redoubled my resolve: I'm going to call and add earthquake insurance to our policy. I'll do it tomorrow. Well, maybe tomorrow. OK, tomorrow for sure.
When the current series of small quakes started in, what was it, February?, my wife and I began nagging each other: We really have to get quake insurance. We understand that this is a seismically active area. We have three friends in Reno who happen to be geologists, and they all have quake insurance. That ought to tell you something even if you're resistant to being told stuff.
A few days ago there was a quake rated at 3.6 on the Richter scale, centered about three miles from our house. No quake insurance. A day or two later there was another, a 4.1. Still no insurance. Then a 4.2, which finally inspired me to make the call.
"Are you kidding?" my insurance guy said, in effect. "I couldn't write you a quake policy now if you were the Queen of Outer Space."
OK, I thought. Maybe it's over. We've come through the worst of it. Our house survived the biggest known earthquake in Verdi history, a 6.0 in 1948, so let's not worry.
That night we had a 4.7 quake.
I'd just gotten into bed, and when the temblor started, I had a vision of our old brick chimney, right outside the bedroom in line with my head, crashing through the ceiling. It didn't, but when I went out and looked at it this morning, I couldn't swear that it's as vertical as it used to be. The movement of the earth in the largest quake was too general for me to feel a direction, but my impression is that it was generally northwest-southeast. I'm not too concerned about being injured by the collapse of the house--small frame buildings generally don't pancake, and we probably could crawl out of the rubble. If the chimney should fall to the northwest, though, it would wind up in bed with us.
We've been following the pattern of quakes as it's developed, and it's unusual in that there hasn't been a single strong one followed by a series of generally decreasing aftershocks. They keep getting bigger, which seismologists say indicates a "slight increase" in the chance of a severe earthquake still to come. Nothing to do but wait it out, wishing I'd bought the insurance any of the 5,000 times I've thought of it since 1979.
Meanwhile, both our cat and dog have forsaken their normal sleeping places in favor of our bedroom, where, just about the time I doze off, one or the other of them will ease up onto the bed, bringing me stark, staring awake with what I now realize is a remarkably accurate impression of about a 3.5 quake.
I grew up in the Bay Area, and I've been through dozens of earthquakes. I'm not a sissy about them. But this can stop anytime it wants to.


Blogger Dewey said...

I found it surprising that when the 4.7 quake happened the local news stations were off the air for about 5 minutes and it took them almost 20 minutes after the quake to come back with information.

For those of us without internet, or if we had lost internet service, 20 minutes is a long time to wait to find out how serious the quake was.

For a 24-hour town, or Reno thinks it is a 24-hour town, there is an amazing lack of services once the sun goes down and the news stations goes off the air. How many times have you turned on the morning news only to hear about a story, without video, and without very many details because there was no on on duty to cover the story.

This is a wake up call to improve information exchange between the powers that be and the ones who needs the information.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Norby said...

Sorry Cory, but I'll be the sissy. SCREW THIS SH*T!!!!
After getting us on edge with the constant 3.+ temblors, last nights bout stroked me out! We live above Sommerset, and I was guessing it was a 6 based on shaking. I've been in several quakes well over 5 including Loma Prieta. I've got broken stuff all over, cracks in my walls and my dogs will require months of therapy.
Like you said, it can stop any minute now.

5:04 PM  
Blogger me said...

Ok, I think I know why this area has been rocked with earthquakes.

The state Republican convention was in Reno on Saturday (April 26).

It made the poor earth in this area very ill and the quakes got stronger as the convention neared because the earth got sicker and more upset.

7:08 PM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

Rock on Reno! Rock on! Mother nature is in the driver's seat me thinks.

Just for clarification: Earthquake insurance - and all types of insurance for that matter - is really just financial mitigation protection.

This headline from via the AP really got my attention tonight: "Reno urged to prepare for worse as earthquakes continue"

Scientists urged residents of northern Nevada's largest city ..

USGS Maps of Recent Earthquake Activity in California-Nevada

8:17 PM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

Oh.. and I forgot to mention: If California does break-off and fall into the Pacific Ocean due to a nice sized earthquake, we can blame it on "The biggest little city in the world."

That would be Reno, no?

You people do have a sense of humor, yes?

And as the late Edward R. Murrow would say at sign-off: "Good night and good luck."


8:29 PM  
Blogger Don said...

I always thought that lots of smaller earthquakes were a good thing ... it's when the plates, cracks and fizzures STOP moving and build up pressure (finally cutting loose and resulting in a massive quake) that you have to put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Dewey said...

Since may of the quakes are happening in newly developed areas I was wondering if it isn't a result of human activities.

Where does Mogul and Sommerset get their water? Well-water? Could it be they are taking the lubricating liquid from the ground and creating friction underground that results in earthquakes?

If they are using city water maybe the lawn watering is finally working its way down to the fault zone and making it slippery and causing the quakes.

Everyone thinks it is a result of nature. Anyone consider it may be us?

9:08 AM  
Blogger Pogonip said...

So far, our 80+ year-old brick house seems to be doing a lot better than the new construction. We've lost two bricks off the chimney, which needed repair before this started in February.

The basement was poured in one piece and set in about six feet of sand all around. For all I know, there could even be rebar in the brick walls. What I do know is that it's survived the quakes in the 40s and 50s, and while I did not find it very entertaining, it survived that Energizer bunny-quake the other night. No cracks. Not bad, eh?

It is also a reminder of how puny we humans really are. We think we're so powerful, then the earth moves out from beneath our feet.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst thing that has happened for me is this earth-shaking has infected my dreams at night. I've had earthquake dreams for the past two nights. Bleeeh!

8:13 PM  
Blogger hotair said...

Since the developers above Mogul have gone into bankruptcy and left the scar on the hill, the gods and goddesses are ripping up a storm because we've descrated our hills for nothing. And the new Sommersett road broke into the fault and made it active. How's that for a tale?

11:28 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Been a little busy to reply to this post. As our backyard in Lower Mogul was the actual Epicenter we thought the roof surely would collapse with the shaking. If this was only a 4.7 I never want to feel a 6.0. A friend at work has been in a 6.3 quake in Alaska and said it was nothing like this one.
I agree with earlier posts that Somerset may have stirred up something. With the golf course water wells lowering the water table, all the cutting of the hillsides, the Great Wall constructed above Lower Mogul with extensive cut and fill. Too bad that wall did not tumble down. So if that developer is indeed bankrupt just who will build on that slope. No quake insurance for them.
Signed: Proud Owner of a 2 week old Earthquake Policy.
Be safe everyone.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Happy Camper said...

I have always felt all the deep blasting they do is behind some of this. where we live "upper Sparks) is that a place ? When they blasted behind us we has little rumbles for weeks. Makes one wonder. sorry about the mans dog, I know the more pound dogs must have gone crazy , my dogs at home didn't like it.

7:42 AM  

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