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A Little Bit o’ Shaken Goin’ On

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Margarita’s sister and I were just watching one of our favorite shows, House, on DVD on my computer when we felt the familiar rumble of an earthquake, something I’ve been missing since I moved out of LA 4 and a half years ago.

This was a nice one, not too strong, but noticeable.  There was a good deal of rumbling and the entertainment center rattled nicely.  I thought of moving my laptop away from the entertainment center in case anything fell, but in the end, didn’t bother moving off the couch.  After maybe 15 seconds (if that) it was over and done with.

Margarita had been in the shower and hadn’t noticed anything when we told her about it later.  I did get to hear some discussion of the situation in Zapotec though, as she and her sisters discussed that biyhuu’ looyuu ‘the ground shook’ (from biyhuu’, the past tense of shake, and looyuu, ‘ground, earth’).

Since I haven’t been running into as many earthquakes of late, it’s been a while since I looked up earthquakes on the USGS earthquake site, and wow, do they have some cool displays now.  First, of course, there was the standard information.  It was a magnitude 4.7 earthquake that occurred in Eastern Oaxaca, near the Chiapas border at 11:41 pm local time on February 17th (which if my cell phone is keeping accurate time (actually it seems to be a minute fast) means it took about 2 minutes for the shaking to reach us in Oaxaca City).  The coolest new thing (new to me at least) that I saw on the USGS site though was that the location was pinpointed on Google Maps and even on Google Earth, and all within 15 minutes of the earthquake.  Using the latter, I was able to determine that Oaxaca City is about 165 miles almost due east of the epicenter.

And since according to the USGS site the epicenter was 67.4 miles underground, it means the seismic had to travel about 180 miles to reach us.  For them to have reached us in two minutes they would have been having to travel over 5000 mph, which if Wikipedia is to be believed is not an unreasonable speed (P-waves are claimed to travel 5000 m/s (11184 mph) through granite and S-waves about 3000 m/s (6710 mph).  They both travel more slowly through less dense material).  All the info on the USGS website is just too much fun!

I’ve always enjoyed exploring a map.  Now, I just hope Oaxaca doesn’t fall off it.

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