May 28, 2009

Earthquake - The first time the earth moved for me, then again and again and again

Honduran mountains near La CeibaLooks more peaceful than I feel

Now for my own personal reaction to
Honduras' earthquake early this morning. I've only been on the fringes of one very mild earthquake here in Honduras so I'm practically an earthquake virgin.

I was up very late last night trying to catch up on my email. I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when the earthquake started. I heard a thundering roar and the windows started rattling. Initially I thought it was just a storm blowing in. Just the other day a similar thing happened − I heard a roar getting louder as it came closer which, ironically, I thought was an earthquake at that time. That time it was just a storm.

I looked toward the window and realized the windows were rattling wildly though there was no wind. Then the walls started rocking back and forth and then the ceilings and the floors. It was really stronger than I had imagined it would be. I could see the 8" thick concrete walls moving! It was as if giant bulldozers were ramming our house and LOUD! I was stunned and spent more than a few seconds standing there thinking, "So this is what an earthquake feels like." (Oh, how I wish I had thought to grab my video camera so all of you could experience it, too!)

My dogs, who always follow me to the bathroom, were all wide-eyed, open mouthed, looking around wildly for the source of this craziness.

I kept expecting it to stop any second but it didn't! It was so strong that I finally jerked myself out my shock realizing that those walls or ceiling could come caving in on us. I rushed out of the bathroom to find El Jefe out of the bed, sort of bent over and holding on to the heavy nightstand, while in his sleepy stupor he tried to digest what was happening. I said, "It's an earthquake!"

We looked at each other for a moment, I think both of us were thinking it would stop any second, then I asked, (calmly, believe it or not) "Should we go outside?" "Yes!" He grabbed my arm and literally pulled me out of the room and down the stairs in the dark. I pulled back long enough to flip on the stairway light switch because at that moment I was more worried about falling down the dark stairway and breaking a leg than I was about the house caving in.

The dogs were scrambling along with us, though it took some encouragement to get them to come out of the house. Chloe the guard dog was on the front porch, frantic, jumping two feet up in the air and very glad to see us, I think.

Once we got outside with the dogs huddled around us, the movement stopped and the neighborhood was quiet. It seemed to me that the shaking lasted more than a minute here in La Ceiba, but I could be way off on that estimate. You know how time seems to stand still when your adrenaline is pumping. El Jefe also said that he felt like he was moving in slow motion but really he was anything but slow as he was pulling me out of the house.

We talked about hoping that our house was not damaged and wondered where the epicenter was located and just how bad it was and whether people were hurt. He looked around the house and didn't see any obvious damage. I suggested that he call his mother to make sure she was all right in El Porvenir. She was scared but fine otherwise. I couldn't wait to get to the USGS earthquake site to find the answers to at least some of my questions. That didn't happen until much later.

When we first went back up to our bedroom, I had the sensation that the floor was not level. I walked around while J was on the phone. After a few seconds, I realized that there was nothing wrong with the floor. My legs were still "rubbery" and shaky from the shock/fear/tension.

El Jefe mentioned today that our bedroom is probably not a safe place to be since it is upstairs above the garage. The floor was strongly reinforced but it could crack and collapse.

chihuahuas, HondurasOne funny thing: My chihuahuas annoyingly always want to go into the bathroom with me when I'm preparing to go to bed. Well, after the earthquake was over, after I found I had no internet connection, and after we checked the TV stations (only CNN en Español had some brief information), I went back into the bathroom to brush my teeth. The dogs wanted no part of going back into that room where the earthquake occurred! They came to the doorway but turned around and ran back to their pillows.

There was a strongish but quick aftershock* maybe about 30 minutes after the initial earthquake. El Jefe said that he felt several others but they must have happened during my few minutes of sleep during the rest of the night.

I got very little sleep last night. First because I was nervous and couldn't sleep and later it seemed that every time I dozed off, the rooster would crow, the chi's would bark, Chloe would bark, I would hear something (a boom once), or something else would wake me up! I guess we were all skittish.

We don't seem to have any major damage to our house and for that I am very grateful. We didn't have anything fall or break, but then we don't have a lot of little doodads around and most of our furniture is heavy. The sheet rock ceilings are separating from the walls. Pictures on the walls were crooked. Initially, I started to tell Arexy to be sure to straighten them after she dusts, but then I realized it was probably from the earthquake shaking the house, not Arexy. ;-)

Speaking of Arexy, she had no damage at her dad's house or any to speak of in her neighborhood. She also noticed no damage on her trip to work today. Just as she arrived here about 8 a.m., though, an aftershock occurred which scared her. J told her that the aftershocks are common.

It's so disorienting! Your mind is used to figuring the most logical explanation for things that are going on around you. The windows rattle and my mind says that it must be the wind or Chloe scratching and bumping the windows...but wait! I'm on the second floor. It can't be the dog and there is no wind. My legs go rubbery again. I don't like this at all. I want it to stop!

11:18 p.m. ~ ANOTHER aftershock! It rolled and rumbled through from one side of the room to the other. I heard something outside. The windows rattled at my left. I felt/heard the movement coming toward me. My chair rocked and I rocked in it. I hollered something profane. Then it continued on to the other side of the room and the windows rattled on that side. I held my breath deciding whether I should get up and run or whether it was over once again.

My legs turn to rubber again and my stomach is queasy.

Stop! Please stop! I need to sleep.

* See corrections/updates here: Not one Honduran quake, but three

And then there were four: Make that four Honduran earthquakes
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