Shake city

There have been two earthquakes that measured over 6.5 on the Richter scale in Wellington in the last month.

The first one hit on Sunday evening July 21.  I was making dinner.  Mr D had just gone out to pick up his brothers for family dinner at our place.  I’d put rice on, chopped some vegetables, and then went to the bathrooms to wash my hands.  As I walked out, the earthquake started, and since it seemed pretty big, I stopped in the doorway and held on.  Standing there, I saw the only piece of damage in our house happen: the last embroidery hoop on a whole stack stuck on a nail in the wall fell off.

When it ended I thought “Hmmm…I think that was the biggest quake I’ve ever felt.”

Felicity bounded through the cat door, ears back and hair raised.  She’d never shown the slightest concern at any earthquake previously.

Still, I went on with my day, pretty unconcerned.  Then the in-laws called to check if we were OK, and asked if I’d managed to get ahold of Mr D.

Oops.  I hadn’t even thought to check.  Bad wife moment.

(aftershock as I write this.  I’m guessing 5.2)

Still, he called on my cell just as I was talking on the other phone, and was fine.  We had our family dinner, watching the news reports of shattered windows and a few fires, but luckily, no serious damage or injury.  A few buildings were shut down, and people camped with friends.

It didn’t stop shaking.  There were small aftershocks over the next weeks.  Instead of “Rain dying out in afternoon” or “Strong Northwesterlies” or “Scattered showers” the Dominion Post newspaper wrote in their daily weather section “Who cares, as long as it stops shaking.”

Some of us shrugged it off.  Some of it got a little tense and irritable.  Some, those who had lived through Christchurches quakes, or lost friends and family in them, or were not used to earthquakes, were very affected.

It hasn’t been too bad for me.  I’ve lived with earthquakes all my life.  Hawaii has active volcanos: earthquakes, usually small and minor, are not uncommon.  I went to university in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Earthquakes happened.

(tiny aftershock)

Still, they get on your nerves after a while.  You worry.  Will there be a big one?  After Christchurch, we’re apprehensive.  They survived the first, despite all the damage.  It was the second that killed people.  I was there between the two.

The second hit this afternoon.  It was 6.6.  Shallow.  I didn’t even feel it.  I’d just gotten in the car on my way to an appointment for my back.  I must have just started the car, or been turning, and missed the shaking.  It wasn’t until someone started signaling traffic and pulling us over that I realised something had happened.  I figured they were exaggerating (after all, I’d felt NOTHING), so I continued to head into town.

The CBD was strange.  Crowds of people outside.  Everyone on their cellphone.  And then the sirens started, and the traffic began to get heavy.  I managed to park.  Got a text from my appointment, but didn’t quite understand it.  I went to the building.  Lifts were down.  Climbed 7 flights of stairs.  All the offices were closed.  I stood there for a moment.  An aftershock hit.  I GOT OUT.  Even a tiny aftershock 7 flights up in a not particularly safe building on the reclaimed land of the CBD wasn’t fun.

Seven flights down, and I couldn’t tell if my weak legs were from the stairs or the quake.  I tried to get ahold of Mr D.  Network was down.  Got a cocoa at a cafe that was still open (thank you!).  Watched the crowds of people.  More sirens.  Mad traffic.  Got texts from Mr D.  Was he leaving work?  Yes, no maybe…

(tiny aftershock…getting stronger…wow…this is long….finally over.  Probably 4.7)

Went out to the street, to wait away from buildings.  Ran into brother-in-law.  Invited him over for dinner – I was pretty sure at this point no students would want to come to my evening class, so I’d have to cancel.  Our house would be safer than his apartment.

Mr D finally showed up, and we fought our way through traffic.  40 minutes for what would usually take me less than 15.  More aftershocks as we drove.  I saw a woman driving, her cheeks wet with tears.  I hope she’s OK.

We’re all sitting in the lounge now, watching the news as dinner cooks.  I’m writing, documenting aftershocks as they happen.  There has been damage in Seddon, where the quake was centred, but Wellington, despite all the aftershocks is OK.

I hope this is the last. I hope this is over.  I’m worried now.  There was a documentary on TV about New Zealand’s other big earthquake, in Napier in 1931.  My neck hurts and I’m tense.  I don’t want it to shake anymore.  I don’t want anyone to be hurt.

(tiny aftershock).


  1. Karen says

    I understand how you feel. Its a funny old thing, these events. One thinks they have survived more or less intact, and are carrying on as normal, but suddenly a few months down the track or even a couple of years you realise that you WERE affected by the events that you were a part of, and then seeing it happen again adds to the stress. In many respects I have become accustomed to them, here in Chch just like you were by living in Hawaii and San Fran, but everything is linked. Stresses in other areas of you life will add to the new stress. All you can do is plan for what you can plan for, and if it is needed then you know exactly what to do. I took up sewing and that is one of my stress reliefs! Know that people out there know what you are going through!

    Kia Kaha!

  2. My daughter is living in Wellington and she started off this afternoon rather blase about the whole earthquake biz, but now is over them and wants it all to stop. She is in student accomodation in the centre of town – we worry but life goes on. I am glad to hear that you are surviving through this latest series of quakes. I am hoping that this is just a passing phase for all of Wellington and New Zealand’s sake. All the best Leomomi.

  3. fidelio says

    I hope Saturday is less stressful and filled with dread. I hope it’s just cracked windows and a few other dints and dings that can be fixed quickly.

    As a distraction, Nike, not known for getting the point before it pokes them in the eye*, has pulled the damn tights, and none too soon, either.

    *The articles has other examples of Nike!fail! to contemplate. As we say here in the southern US, bless their hearts.

  4. I’ve never experieced an earthquake to the best of my knowledge… but we get floods around here. I think I have a little idea of what you’re writing about, and I hope you’re safe.

  5. Dear Leimomi,
    Oh my. So glad you are in a house, and know from long experience what they’re like and what to do. Very best thoughts your way, and all New Zealand’s way. May the durn things fade out rapidly!

    We don’t get earthquakes often around here, but still have “earthquake bars” stabilizing older buildings, after several big ones in the 19th century. When I lived in Germany, small shakes were common, but I never got used to them.

    Very best indeed,


  6. Hope you and yours are safe. Sending thoughts and good wishes to all of New Zealand. X

  7. I really hope they stop for you guys, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t wish EQC on my worst enemy. You do get used to them after a while, none of us here tend to move from what we’re doing when one hits nowadays; cats are used to them too; though Feb 22 they did look a bit shocked.
    Glad everyone’s ok; keep sewing as it does help with the stress levels; I knitted my way through.

  8. It’s like turbulence on a plane and you don’t know it’s going to happen. The Nat Lib is one of the safest buildings but still pretty scary. Trying to have a normal day today as much as possible… all I know is you never experience anything like it in the UK. I also don’t want to see the city I’ve grown to love change out of recognition.

  9. I had completely forgotten you were in Wellington! Glad to hear you’re ok. I don’t worry too much when I hear about NZ earthquakes as I know a lot is built with the expectation of them, but it still makes my heart hurt as I love that country. I know it must be a difficult experience and I’m grateful my month there was uninterrupted by one. I hope things get back to normal quickly.

  10. Natalie says

    Glad to know you are doing ok. Living in California I know of scary it is. Stay safe!

  11. Glad to hear you’re ok, and will be praying for y’all’s safety.
    I’ve only been in one quake where I live (the New England region isn’t anywhere near an active fault line) – which was the long-distance shock of the Washington DC quake a couple years ago – but I would guess the uncertainty about the next one is almost as bad as the actual shock itself… Hope it quiets down soon!

  12. It’s times like that which make me want to go camping, where there is nothing above my head but trees and stars. But I always console myself that survivable quakes mean that the faults are depressurizing without being totally catastrophic.

    At any rate, I hope it’s better soon!

  13. Glad you’re ok. I still remember the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. I remember the thing that freaked me out most after was all the confusion, not being able to get a hold of folks, and the after shocks. We’ve only had small quakes since then, which I perversely kinda enjoy, but ugh, the big ones are nerve racking.

  14. I’m so glad to hear you are ok! I can only imagine what you are going through, even though you are staying strong. All the best and take care.

  15. Marilyn J. Hollman says

    Had no idea you were in NZ. We have a major eq zone in Illinois, and even up near Chicago we have shakes now and then. It is very unsettling to watch one’s wall move. I hope the earth stops moving – at least in this way – and calm pervades.

  16. Elise says

    Looking for a local volunteer event to do here in ABQ in your honor and to drum up aloha and karma to send to NZ.

  17. Kathryn says

    Wow, I just read this after gritting my teeth through yet another in the seemingly endless string of massive hailstorms/tornado watches we’ve been having in Alberta this summer. And, friend, do I feel you. After a while, you just can’t shake off the worry and stress of violent natural events anymore. You’re sick of it interrupting everyone’s lives, and you’re sick of asking yourself where all your loved ones might be every time such a moment hits. Not to mention the physical discomfort/pain. I’m sorry everyone in Wellington is having such a trying winter, and I really, truly hope it eases up for you folks soon. Enough already, eh?

  18. A belated message as I’ve been away from internet and email for a few days – had to text Mr Tulip and get him to check if you’d posted about the quake. So glad to hear that you, Mr D and Fiss are all OK. Hope that everything settles down very soon.

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