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Would you rather?….or let’s talk disasters

It’s pretty much unanimous that people in Puerto Rico prefer a hurricane to an earthquake. There’s fair warning for a hurricane and it has a beginning, middle and an end… and although the aftermath can last years, there is no uncertainty as there is in an earthquake.

earthquake map

The earthquakes of Jan. 7th, which are continuing as I write this on Jan 14th, should not have been a total surprise to everyone in PR. The island is set between the American and Caribbean tectonic plates which move towards each other creating the potential for an earthquake or tsunami (underwater landslide). In 1918 an earthquake near the northwestern coast triggered a tsunami and the 4.1 earthquakes in ‘91 and ‘99 occurred in the northern fault which were felt strongly throughout the island. Earthquakes in the southwest are not as common which has led to unsubstantiated rumors in social media that these earthquakes have been caused by oil fracking located between Puerto Rico and Venezuela. David Begnaud of CBS interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Vanacore, interim director of the Puerto Rico seismic network who said that fracking is NOT causing the earthquakes.

Even before the January 7th quake that shook the island, there were tremors….(so maybe the authorities shouldn’t have been totally surprised). A visitor was staying at the house and felt the bed and shutters shake. In the past I’ve felt tremors like that, mild and gentle rocking that weren’t scary. “Did you feel that?” It was kind of cool.

The stronger earthquakes in the past have had the noise like an approaching train and then everything shook. I went outside…and then back inside. I don’t remember aftershocks. When it was over…it was over.

This one was different. It was noisy and everything shook. Aftershocks happened, and are still happening. Electricity was shut off and there was an island wide blackout. Without electricity many people no longer had water. It felt like Maria again, except I no longer had to deal with running generators…we have solar power.

Even in our area, which is far from the disaster center, people slept in tents and had no light or water for days. Traffic lights in town were out, but most businesses had (or have) generators. Unlike after Maria, banks were open, credit cards and ATMs worked; communications were not down.


Social media is a life saver in times like this and I was hooked. I stayed looking at my phone and news when they were repeating what I already knew. Besides sharing information, resources and news in general, communication is invaluable to calm nerves especially for those who live alone.

“Mochilas de Emergencia” were announced all over the news. Leave your backpack by the door in case you have to run. Most advised to have your important papers and prescription medications in it as well.

So life is returning to normal where I live, but I think I will buy a whistle…just in case….in case I’m trapped in a collapsed building. Our new reality……….hey, did you feel something?

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