This molding in my kitchen isn't loose: the wall shifted in the last earthquake. Or maybe it was the roof.
In December we had big ca-chunk! kind of an earthquake that sounded as if it were right under the house. Turns out it was.
It was 2.1 miles beneath the earth's surface on the Monte Vista fault line, directly beneath the intersection of Fremont and El Monte Avenues--or about one long city block from my house. And, although it was just a 3.1 on the Richter scale, it was big enough, and rattled the kitchen window enough, that at first I thought it was a sonic boom.
This all came to mind as I watched the news of the devastation in New Zealand from their 6.3 magnitude quake. That size earthquake is a not-unexpected event in California, and though there is nothing you can do about them and no way one can predict them, the damage in Christchurch, New Zealand does give one pause.
Since our last little temblor I've noticed there is some small damage on the northwest side of this house: the side closest to the epicenter. The kitchen wall above the window shifted enough to put the molding out of plumb:
Just a few feet away, a set of louvred doors are no longer true:
A sliding door in the bedroom is out of whack and closes neatly at the top, but not at the bottom.
And a piece of molding in the entryway is also out of plumb. It isn't loose and it won't just fit back with the other mitred piece: the wall is what is really out of plumb.
The entry is paneled in old, pickled redwood, though I think my father added the molding twenty years ago. That gap--obviously--doesn't belong there.
All this is actually good news. Wood frame houses are supposed to be the safest buildings you can be in (safe as houses?) in an earthquake, since the wood moves and gives, but doesn't break and collapse as do bricks and mortar.
This house has withstood a lot of quakes since its construction in 1952--most notably the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, which was a 6.9. Quite a few things fell off shelves, but the house had no damage at all. My Dad said he actually saw the house move in a sort of a wave (seismologists said the surface wave was a 7.1), but when it was over he took out his level and found that all the corners were plumb again.
He always told me it was much more dangerous to drive a car, than to live in earthquake country. Remembering that now gives me some comfort, as I watch the people of New Zealand recover from their own terrible exception to that rule.
If you want to see what the earth is doing in your town or city, just Google the name of your hometown and the word "earthquake," and Google will list all the recent quakes in your vicinity.