Fault Lines

A photograph of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krabi Province, Thailand. By David Rydevik (email: david.rydevikgmail.com), Stockholm, Sweden. (Originally at Bild:Davidsvågfoto.JPG.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we all know that a major quake is imminent. Oregon Public Broadcasting has had a great series, Unprepared, about the pending quake in Oregon. There are also a wealth of books on the topic. I particularly recommend John Clague, Chris Yorath, Richard Franklin and Bob Turner’s, At Risk: Earthquakes and Tsunamis on the West Coast. This well written book is filled with images and maps, to detail the potential risks of an earthquakes in different sections of the Northwest. If you live in Western Washington you’ll want to check out the map on page 117; Portland or Vancouver? See the map on page 118. And if you live on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands, you’ll want to look at the map of tsunami run-up potential on page 138. Then you’ll want to check out the photo of what a piece of 2 by 4 lumber did to a tire during a tsunami during the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The book conveys complex scientific information in clear and readable prose. The chapters on diverse topics also have a clear flow. If only all science writing was as approachable as in this book.

Still, I love podcasts, so my favorite resource is probably the five part CBC series Fault Lines. The series is organized by time, so that the first episode discusses different forms of quake that may strike Vancouver, while the second episode describes the quake itself. What makes the podcast particularly insightful, however, is that the majority of the episodes focus on the period of time after the quake. This compels the listener to imagine what that experience will be like for survivors, and how well prepared they themselves may be. Surviving the earthquake is only the first step on a long journey. The podcast is an unsettling and insightful exploration of the topic, which will leave you musing about the danger for days. Curious? You can hear the teaser here.

Shawn Smallman, 2018

Typhoons and Hurricanes

Shuttered door in the front lobby of the Metropark Hotel, Hong Kong, before the arrival of Category 10 Typhoon Hato on August 23rd, 2017. Photo by Shawn Smallman

Like everyone else, I’m watching the news as Hurricane Harvey reaches category four intensity tonight. It will reach the coast of Texas around midnight, August 25th. My thoughts are with everyone in the affected region. I also hope that people are paying much closer attention to the news than I was when Typhoon Hato reached Hong Kong this Wednesday. I was staying at a hotel in Hong Kong, and was not following events, because I had been busy traveling back from Shenzhen. When I awoke in the morning I was surprised to see the rain coming down in buckets, but just thought it was a summer storm. I then went down the stairs, only to find myself confused by the shutters that had been installed on the main lobby doors at the Metropark Hotel. I went out another door, and was puzzled to see the sidewalks without pedestrians, the streets without cars, and businesses closed. When I saw that the windows up and down the street were taped with X’s, I realized what was happening.

Typhoon Hato skirted Hong Kong but hit Macau hard. Still, even in Hong Kong it was an impressive sight from the hotel’s rooftop. A burst of intense wind would pass through, whipping the palm trees back and forth. Clouds of leaves would hurl through the air, as they were sucked hundreds of feet into the sky. The rain would pour sideways. Then, I don’t know why, suddenly it would be dead calm. At one point I found myself watching a flock of birds, desperately trying to fly into the wind to avoid being sucked up into the hills. They would gain a little space, they be blown helplessly back. By late afternoon the worst was over, although heavy rains continued for hours. …

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