So you may have heard on the news of the earthquake that occured in the L.A. area yesterday. According to seismologists, it was a 5.4 on the logarithmic Richter scale (the Szechuan Earthquake was 7.9/8.0).
Unusually, I was in another lab, specifically Dr. Jed Fuhrman’s at the time. Our lab is limited by the number of advanced computational tools we have for microbial analysis, while Dr. Fuhrman’s lab specializes in that sort of analysis and has a plethora of very expensive and useful toys. I had been working at a computer doing an analysis of an ARISA gel, when the walls and roofs started shaking pretty violently. To be honest, I thought it was additional construction at first–a mainstay at institutions of higher learning during the summer months. Quickly I realized this was no joke and ran into the other offices to go under a doorway in case there was falling debris, etc. Luckily, as Gov. Schwarzenegger so aptly pointed out since the damaging 1994 earthquake, building codes have been improved immensely. As a result, there seems (hoped…) there’s no structural damage to the USC buildings as a result of the quake. Oddly enough, I had been anticipating to leave Dr. Fuhrman’s lab within a few minutes after the quake hit anyway to meet my fellow REU participants for an outing at the La Brea Tarpits and Page Museum.
I suppose the scariest thought of the whole quake is the relaxed attitude on the part of residents here, as well as the possibility that the earthquake was only a foreshock to a much more severe quake. Few people evacuated their tall buildings after the event (unlike me…). In accordance with what seems like the culture of Los Angeles, few people were panicking over the earthquake, but more awed by the powers of nature. Moreover, it seems like most people had little if any idea of what to do if the event was more severe. I’ll just hope that a bigger earthquake does not come through during my last few weeks here.
Growing up in the hurricane-prone area of south Louisiana, I know the damage nature can wield first-hand. For decades, many policy-makers and residents maintained a similar “laissez-faire” attitude of protecting New Orleans from flooding. It seems L.A. was better prepared for its medley of natural disasters than LA was.