The Big One Is Coming


It must be a slow day when The Globe and Mail runs an article on the next big earthquake out here in Never Never Land. Usually, their concerns are kept to traffic congestion and Rob Ford’s peccadilloes.

Well, let me say, as I shamble through the honey suckle vines the Oregon grape searching for wind blown trees I can cut up for firewood, always checking over my shoulder, of course, for a cougar that hangs around the place. I think he hopes to turn the ferile peacock into dinner one day. Sorry, I got distracted there so I’ll go back to the first part of that sentence. Let me say that we don’t get too excited when we wake up because the bed is dancing. It reminds me of the days of my passionate youth.

It’s not just the bed, of course. It’s the dresser, side table, the chair and out in the dining room it sounds like a furniture party. Never lasts, of course. When I first moved to the West Coast and there was an earthquake, I’d panic. What else can you expect from a prairie boy? If the furniture started dancing in our house in Manitoba, we’d have hired and exorcist.

The article made it sound like people are prepared. Pshaw! Nonsense. The only person I know who is prepared is my daughter. She’s an accountant. She keeps lists, itemizes, organizes. She’s got blue bins full of canned goods, a can opener, dry foods, water, you name it. Everybody else goes, I’ve got a case of pop and a bottle of whiskey in the garage. That’ll do until the helicopters come. We’re okay. I think there’s stash of potato chips down there as well.

During the time that I was the Chair of a University department in Victoria, I had to attend a number of earthquake preparedness workshops. Everybody smiled and was enthusiastic , academics love meetings, it makes them feel they’re doing something. I kept thinking, we’re doomed. Of course, I’m naturally pessimistic.

Don’t expect any help from outside for a least a week. If we’re done, so will Vancouver and Seattle. Edmonton will be the staging area. The ferry terminals will be gone. No leaving and no getting food supplies. Some years ago when we had the BIG SNOW, the local stores ran out of food in four days. People were already starting to discuss eating the family dog. Lucky it rained otherwise BBQ dog recipes would have been used all over the city.

Realistically, someone asked, how soon before residents of the Island would get help. Two weeks, maybe more. Dogs will be a treasure. Especially big ones. Pekinese, not so much.
Someone asked about water. The lady giving he workshop tried to duck that but some audience members knew about water. There will be no water. The city has known for decades that the very old, concrete pipe that brings water from a lake will break, shatter, disintegrate. The workshop participants went very quiet.

“What,” one of them asked, “will people do drink and pee?”

There was a bit of shuffling as people ruminated on the question. “Don’t use any type of cleaner in the back of your toilet. That water is clean. It’ll keep you going for a few days. Drain the water out of your water tank. That water will be fine.”
“I live on the seventh floor of a high rise,” a woman with green streaks in her hair said.
“You’ll have to buy bottled water.”

Someone else chimed in, “There won’t be any power. No elevator.”

“Are you saying we won’t be able to flush our toilets?”

There was some uneasy shifting.

“Keep a two week supply of water in your closet or under your bed or in your garage.

Figure out what you eat over two weeks and keep a supply of packaged food. Porridge, rice, macaroni, soup.”

“Those require water. Besides, what am supposed to do on the seventh floor to cook?”

“You’ll have to buy take out,” someone suggested. Everyone turned to look at him to see if he was joking or just really stupid.

The speaker rapped on her lectern to get our attention away from the lilkelihood of takeout if there was no power.

“As employees of the university, you are expected to come to the university to help deal the problems here. We have sixteen thousand students we need to feed. There’ll be damage.

There’ll be injured.”

“What about our families?” someone from the back shouted.

“They’ll have to manage on their own,’ was the reply.

Right. There’s an earthquake. I had a wife and two small children. The house has mostly fallen down, everything in it is smashed, everybody has bumps, bruises and cuts. They’re scared. I’m scared. There may be a tsunami coming and I’m supposed to say to my wife,

‘Sorry, Ducks, but the Dean and duty calls.” Not.

A local tsunami is likely to be six to twelve feet. Not big, big, not four stories high like some. I live at the top of a ridge, reasonably far inland. A tsunami is unlikely to reach here. If it does, I’ve got a large fir tree to climb. If it is so large that it reaches the top of the ridge, there go my supplies of soft drinks and potato chips.

I was at Parksville once when there was a tsunami warning. The summer cottage units that were created from an old motel was right on the beach. I looked to see where we would go to get to high ground. There was a large cliff. If wave of even a couple of feet roared ashore, we’d all be swept out to sea. When the wave did come, thank goodness it was only a few inches. We were okay, Jack. But for the next few nights, I slept with a flotation device strapped on.

The truth is we’re doomed. A big earthquake will result in airport runway fractures. Buildings falling down. Ferry terminals unusable. No power. No water. Little medical care. Fires caused by broken gas lines. After two weeks no dogs, no squirrels, no cats.
Rich people will have private helicopters fly in to get them, cost no object. The rest of us will go from eating our neighbour’s dog to eating our neighbours.

Toronto the smug will see this as divine justice on the hooligans and hillbillys of the West Coast who never work when the surfs up, when its good scuba weather, when there’s snow on the ski slopes. If it’s a slow news day, someone will type out a column about how HAM (hot Asian money) has had their investment properties reduced to rubble.

The truth is we’re not prepared. If the big one feels like it might happen, I’ll put some cases of canned goods in the garage, buy a hibachi, a small tent, stock up on bottled water, sleep wearing a hard hat and a life vest. Until then when the furniture dancing wakes me up, I’ll just roll over and go back to sleep.

Oh, and add a Porta Potty to my list.