It's pretty bizarre to me that it was around the time last year (Feb. 27, 2010) that Chile suffered it's massive 8.8 earthquake that shook the world, literally. I don't know why the heck I didn't blog about it then, but I actually felt the earthquake in Taiwan.
Granted I have earthquake super-sense, but there was (mildly) discernible shaking even among those who aren't as sensitive as me to the ground moving.
I can't even imagine what it was like in Chile then or in Japan now, but one thing that I think was very distinctly similar was the mass tsunami warning across the entire Pacific Basin.
I remember being a little scared last year but mostly feeling alright knowing I lived on the opposite side of the island than that which would be affected if a tsunami happened. I was a little worried about my sister but nobody really thought it would make it as far north as Seattle anyway.
This year, I again panicked at the thought of Taiwan getting swallowed in a wall of water or suffering earthquakes spawned from the original in Japan. (They suffered a minor one which most people didn't even feel. I probably would have.)
For some reason, the U.S. West Coast didn't even register when I learned about the earthquake around 11 a.m. local time (long after the quake had happened).
It wasn't until I woke up after a nap at 3 p.m. and started talking on FB to a friend who I met in Taiwan (who is now back in Canada) that I started to panic. My body was shaking and I couldn't even breathe. Apparently the tsunami warning had been issued for the entire Pacific and it was expected to hit Hawaii within minutes of talking to her and the West Coast within a couple of hours.
Why the heck didn't I think about that!
I became obsessed the next couple of hours (my natural reporter instincts always take over in these situations). I contacted my brother-in-law via G-chat:
Insert sigh of relief here.
He quickly informed me that it was apparent they were in the clear being so far inland and having the sound to break it up.
I contacted lorn so she could contact her family because apparently California was supposed to get larger waves. The girl who warned me in the first place was contacting our friends from Taiwan who had moved back to the West Coast (American or Canadian). I felt better once waves no more than 6 feet high rolled up on Hawaii's shores. I figured if anywhere were to get it, Hawaii would. (Not that I wanted them to.)
It was amazing visiting the West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center website. I quickly did the math and realized that the tsunami travels across the ocean as fast as (maybe faster than) a plan. It takes about 10 hours to get from Japan to Seattle and the wave was expected to reach Seattle in about 9 hours.
I watched the BBC live coverage online for something like three or four hours yesterday. It was fascinating to listen to scientists talk about what caused the earthquake, how earthquakes actually work (as opposed to how people think they work) and why it's so difficult to really know the further damage that could be caused by other potential tsunamis worldwide.
Either way, I learned that I did panic a little prematurely. It's difficult to get proper information and know what's going on and what to believe. Especially when the scientists can't even properly predict how big the waves are going to be.
Couple that with only having two hours to warn loved ones and have them get to higher ground... Ugh.
Note to self: Tsunami can mean waves that are 33 feet higher than usual (like in Japan) which are absolutely devastating. Tsunami can also mean waves that are merely three feet higher than normal (like in Vancouver and Seattle) and cause little to no damage.
On top of everything there was also the possibility of a nuclear power plant crisis. Reports showed that they thought they had it under control yesterday but I have recently learned that there was an explosion at the plant moments ago. They don't know the extent of the damage yet but are warning people to stay indoors and keep their mouths covered.
Again, I have no idea what you're supposed to do if a nuclear reactor explodes. Why do I feel so ill-prepared for devastating emergency situations?
I'm glad the U.S. is allowing the troops already in Japan to help with recovery. I'm also glad that we're sending more troops in (a friend of a friend who lives in Hawaii is being transfered to Japan to help with organization and clean up) and another aircraft carrier. These are the kinds of things I like to see our troops doing.
Hopefully we can help to quickly get Japan back on its way to recovery.