Thursday, September 6, 2012

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet...

I feel the earth move under my feet,
I feel the sky come tumblin' down.
- Carole King

Where I sat during the earthquake
At 8:40 AM, Matt , Victor and I had just finished eating Victor's famous turtle pancakes and I was just washing the dishes when the earth started shaking. Being from California, I had felt earthquakes, but this morning it just keep shaking.

I ran for the door jam, like I had been taught growing up and Victor ran outside. About 30 seconds into the shaking, Matt yelled that I needed to go outside, that the door jam of the Costa Rican built house was swaying too much for it to be safe. As I exited the door and tried to run with the ground still shaking below me, I covered my head in fear one of the coconuts from our numerous trees might hit me. Once in the back yard, I saw Matt and Victor, I felt my best option was to stay sitting on part of the foundation on the house. While Matt and Victor were right next to me in the grass.

The ground was still shaking when it occurred to me that there might be a tsunami and that we were dangerously close to the ocean. We began making our plan of action while we waited for the earth to stop moving. The earthquake in total lasted over a minute and a half, so we had a long time to plan.

I decided it was best to walk to our neighbor, Wendy's, house  who had a car, but before we could do that Victor reminded us to go inside and get our passports, real shoes and whatever ever else we might need.  Within 3 minutes, we were out of the house and on our way. We had made it just over 1/2 way when we found Wendy in the road walking to us. At this point, we hopped in the truck to headed to Laguna Mar. I figured, it was close enough that we could make it there quickly, if we needed to head for higher ground the road continued up a mountain and finally we all could use a beer.

However, when we made it to the exit of the town, there was a huge group of locals standing there. Wendy tried to ask them in Spanish if they knew anything about a big wave. However, since everyone was so shaken up, they only heard "There is a big wave" and all started to panic! We told them we were leaving and that they could hop in the back of the truck if they wanted.

At this point, we had about 10 people in the back of the truck, then one of the lady looks at us with tears in her eyes and asks, "Please, can we get my daughter, she is pregnant and couldn't leave the house. I can't leave her!" So of course, we drive towards where she tells she lives, only its almost a mile away from where we are. We tell her frantically, that she needs to hurry because if there is a tsunami, we don’t have time to be waiting.

However, I think our urgency was lost on her and they were moving so slow. When the pregnant lady finally came out (she looked like she was due any day now). She climbed into the car and looks down and at her feet and told us she needed different shoes. We couldn't believe it!

After another 5 minutes, we were flying down the road. As we passed the bus stop on the main road, we saw a local family who said it was far enough from the water. So all the people in our car unloaded and we continued towards Laguna Mar.

When we got there to the hotel it was oddly quiet, but before long people started showing up. Drew wasn't there, but those who were there started pouring beers from the bottles that hadn't broke. We were amazed at how little damage had occurred structurally, but recognized that a lot of alcohol bottles and dishes hadn't been so lucky.

We waited there for about an hour before the tsunami warning was lifted and then we returned to the beach to  get back to the real world, well kind of…

Fissures in the sand in front of the house

With the quake the power went out and the power company wasn't sure they could get it back on for 5 days. Since our house only has electric appliances and we were still nervous that we might still have to run for higher ground, we felt it was best to all stay at Wendy's house for the night.

Walking back to Wendy's after grabbing supplies

We spent the day recuperating and by the pool, but everyone was still very tense, especially since the aftershocks were pretty strong.  Lotti came into bring us candles and recommended that we not patrol that night and just get some sleep.

Hanging out by the pool

Bed moved over a foot
away from the wall.

In the morning we all discussed the different aftershocks that had us ready to run.  Around 2 PM, we returned home to clean up the broken dishes and spilled milk (it was stinky). I walked around the house to take pictures of the damages for the owner, but was amazed to find only a few broken roof times, derailed door and one small, nonstructural crack.
Rainbow after the earthquake

The next 3 days, we had no turtles nest at any of PRETOMA's projects and we were really worried for the effects the shaking would cause to our hatchery. Since we still have a month before our first babies should be hatching, we will have to just wait and see what happens.

In true Costa Rica Fashion,
we had the most beautiful sunset after such a terrifying day.

More on the earthquake:
  • Earthquake was a 7.6 on the Richter Scale at 8:40 AM
  • The epicenter was only 20 km away from us and was 25 km below the surface.
  • The tsunami warning was repealed once it was determined that the epicenter was under the mountains, not off the coast.
  • Costa Rica had been waiting for an earthquake this size for over 50 years and not all the pressure was released with this one quake
  • Within 48 hours of the initial quake we had over 500 aftershocks.
  • There is talk that the whole Nicoya Peninsula has risen over a meter out of the ocean.
  • Almost 1 month later and we are still feeling the earth move.

No comments:

Post a Comment