Saturday, August 17, 2013

Can we feel it?

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Today I drove Nigel’s mum home, after her weeklong visit with us. Once we got there, we ran into a woman she knows who said she felt yesterday’s big Central New Zealand quake while on a farm near Hikutaia, which is about halfway between Thames and Paeroa on State Highway 26 (map above). That’s kind of unusual, and yet it isn’t.

In Auckland, we seldom feel earthquakes from other parts of the country, even when they’re pretty big. That has to do with a combination of factors, such as geography, geology, topography—all sorts of earth science stuff all rolled together. Even so, there are exceptions, and sometimes people DO feel big quakes from other parts of the country.

When last month’s big Central New Zealand quake hit, residents of the highrise Metropolis apartment building in Auckland’s CBD said they felt it, and often people in highrises are the only Aucklanders who will. However, that quake was also felt in Hamilton, and they seldom feel Wellington quakes, either. I haven’t seen any reports of people in Auckland or Hamilton feeling the latest one, which makes sense: The focus at the moment is, appropriately, on the people who were directly affected.

Because of all this, when I heard the woman’s claim to have felt the quake at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula, I was a little incredulous. But, I wasn’t there, so how would I know? All I can say for certain that the only way I knew the quakes were happening were the constant alerts—one every few seconds or minutes—showing up on my iPad, sent by the NZ Quake App from GNS Science. I have never seen so many alerts in such a short period of time—but I never felt any of the quakes.

The only quakes I’ve felt in Auckland have been in Auckland, like the two in March of this year or the one in February, 2007.

So, it’s unusual, but not impossible, for Aucklanders to feel earthquakes happening in other parts of the country. Hopefully, there will never be a catastrophic one in my lifetime, because I wouldn’t be surprised if we felt that, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

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