Unhinged Alaska: Shaken, not stirred

  • By Nick Varney
  • Thursday, February 15, 2018 10:31am
  • News

So, there I was all kicked back in my recliner surfing the aging buffet of recycled movies on HBO wondering if it was worth keeping my subscription until The Game of Thrones finale when my butt cheeks twerked without permission.

In a few seconds my body was acting like it was auditioning for Dancing with the Stars via a horizontal booty shake that would have deeply disturbed the panel of judges and terminated the series for a grave lack of taste.

When the cabin joined the pronounced joggling and the dogs started staring at me like I might be an excellent food source should things get really ugly, I knew we were riding a semi-serious shaker.

The vibrations and the creak of the logs didn’t bother me as much as the duration and increasing intensity of the sideways tremors but, thankfully, they quickly dissipated into small undulations mimicking the aftermath of a mildly upset stomach.

As I was wandering through the cabin checking things out with a headlamp that could signal the space station, the soulful siren of the tsunami alert system on the Spit wrapped itself around our abode and a disembodied voice boomed across Mud Bay that this was no $%#@*&joke and that lowland dwellers should seek higher ground where treading water was not an option.

Our little piece of paradise includes some beachfront so the black-of-night declaration upped the pucker factor to 10 on our Richter scale.

Since we live where shakers are not unusual and have rumbled through several tantrums thrown by grumpy volcanoes, we have prepared easily accessible go-bags, a med kit, comestibles, doggie boogie bags and sundry subsistence items that would make a survivalist drool. All we needed to do was go into a situation- monitoring-mode or motor toward a higher altitude.

We vied for the monitor option by checking on updates from public radio and screening scrolls noting expected wave arrivals from KTUU television in Anchorage.

Obviously, it worked out well because I’m writing this while wishing I never experience that zero-dark-thirty wail again. The whole episode was a prodigious learning experience but also brought back some shaker memories that have been gathering mental dust over the years.

Earthquakes have different personalities.

Just a few years ago, I had taken my wife to the Homer Airport for her departure to attend a family wedding in Ohio.

The dogs were tuning into the fact that their beloved mistress was about to abandon them.

Our miniature rescue dog, Princess the Vain, was zipping around the rear seat like a deflating balloon while her humongous buddy, Howard the Huge, was trying to gin up enough effort to whine.

Jane finally gave them “the stare” and they went into their pillars of salt routine although the diminutive mass of fur was quivering like a dropped tuning fork.

We had just started to review her final pre-liftoff checklist when my rig started bouncing around like a Brahma bull goosed by a demented rodeo clown.

The bucking was over in a few seconds but things kept moving enough that I wondered if there was something really nasty coming next. Nada, but the tremor had been so significant that we figured I should jet back to see if the house logs were still facing the same direction and the plumbing hadn’t morphed into a mass of copper spaghetti.

Once home, I gave the casa, loft, and basement some serious scrutiny but found nothing askew either inside or out.

What a difference. One quake short and somewhat violent, the other drawn out with a lackadaisical termination of a foot-high wave in Homer. One rolled and did a poor rendition of the old shimmy shake dance while the other mimicked a poor man’s bouncy house.

Nope, I didn’t forget the callous, hard smacking, 7.1 critter, the Iniskin quake, that struck 60 miles west of Homer in the middle of the night back in late January of 2016. That bad boy caused damage and startled the bejeezus out of a slumbering population.

It was also when our “go bags” and contingency preps went through a serious upgrade and my bro, Willie, seriously considered Depends as a viable addition to his jammies.

There’s no question that Alaskans live in a very unique place where the term, “Did you feel the earth move?” is more of a practical question than a romantic one. Let’s hope come this Valentine’s Day, it is the latter.

Note: For some fascinating reading on “The Big One,” track down a copy of the softback “Where Were You? Alaska 64 Earthquake” compiled by Joy Griffin back in 1996 and published by Wizard Works for the staff and friends of the Homer Public Library. It is a cool compilation of eyewitness accounts from around the state.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com unless the earth burps again and he’s smokin’ toward Diamond Ridge.

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