By now, you may have heard of the big earthquake that hit northern Japan yesterday morning. At 7.2 on the Richter scale, it ranks as a "major" earthquake. In our part of Kitakami, it reached 5-upper on the shindo scale
, intense enough to cause cracks in the walls of earthquake-resistant structures. But at our house, it just spilled some coffee, knocked a few books off shelves, and caused the automatic safety device to cut off our gas.
Of course, it was big enough to cause us worry. Perhaps the strangest thing about it was how it went on, and on, and on. I guess every big earthquake feels like it goes on forever to the people experiencing it, but this one really did go on for almost 20 minutes. Well, the intense shaking did, anyway; I guess it was probably actually several earthquakes in quick succession, but the vibrations from each were still going when the next arrived. Here are the earthquake maps from the Japan Meteorological Agency
showing the earthquake at 8:47, and still going strong at 9:01.
Just how close was this to us? Here's a zoomed view.
And just how (not) bad was it for us? Well, here's the shelf that moved. Some games almost fell, and a few books did fall.
Shortly after 9, the intensity fell off. But — and this was a very strange sensation — the ground continued to gently roll and pitch for about another hour. As it continued, we picked ourselves up, checked for damage, reset the gas supply, and started to go back about our business. By the time it stopped, we were so used to it that we were still unsteady on our feet, like when you step on dry land after spending some time in a small boat.
The rest of the day and night were a continuous series of aftershocks, sometimes just minutes apart. By 10pm, just 13 hours after the earthquake, there had been nearly 200 aftershocks. Many more came throughout the night, and they have been continuing today with less frequency.