Jason’s Jottings

by Jason Strangis

An earth-shaking experience in Los Angeles brings to mind disaster flicks


My room started shaking at about 11:20 p.m. Pacific Time on September 18, waking me up from the fourth floor of the condominium unit in Los Angeles.

An earthquake? Believe it or not — yes! And a fairly decent size one at that, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale near Westwood. My room shook and rattled for what seemed to be an eternity, although it was probably only about 20 seconds or less. Even so it was a scary yet strangely exhilarating moment. Would objects in the condo break? Or worse, would the building collapse? All these thoughts raced through my head as the room was rattling. Luckily, when the quake had ended, no serious damage was done and I tried to get back to sleep.

It felt like a dream — or more specifically a nightmare. Having recently moved to Southern California, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to experience an earthquake in L.A. Now I’ve experienced one, even though it was a smaller one than you see on those disaster films.

I’ve always been fascinated by natural disasters. It all started when I was about nine years old and watched “The Poseidon Adventure” in a movie theater. The moment when the giant luxury liner was hit by a 90-foot tidal wave on New Year’s Eve is one of the most thrilling scenes in movie history. Yes, it might have been a fictional story (especially a tsunami reaching great heights in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea). But as a youngster I was completely blown away by that film.

Since then I’ve always wanted to see a tsunami up close, but at a safe distance like on top of a big hill. It’s doubtful that will happen, though, as tsunamis as high as the one in “Poseidon Adventure” are extremely rare. Yet rogue waves seem to be more common these days, sometimes devouring ships at sea.

After the enormous success of “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972 many other disaster films followed. There was “Earthquake,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Meteor,” “Volcano,” “Deep Impact,” “Twister,” and director James Camerons’ Oscar-winning epic “Titanic” in 1997.

In 2015 Hollywood created yet another disaster film titled “San Andreas.” Popular actor Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) starred in this story about the devastating aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake. Although the film was fictional, some scientists are predicting that a major quake could occur at the San Andreas Fault within the next decade or sooner.
Earthquakes of a magnitude of 7.0 or more don’t happen very often, especially in California. Of course there’s the infamous San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter Scale, that quake did much damage in northern California. In 1989, another quake struck the Bay Area during a World Series game between Oakland and San Francisco. Part of the stadium collapsed, as did a bridge.

In 1994, residents of the greater Los Angeles area experienced a 6.7 quake. As reported, sections of freeways and buildings collapsed and damage to apartment buildings were seen in Santa Monica.

So the question remains: Will a big quake hit the L.A. area soon? Only time will tell. But natural disasters like hurricanes recently hit Houston and South Florida with devastating consequences. So no big city seems to be truly safe as climate change continues to be a much-discussed worldwide topic. Batten down the hatches everyone!