So, today I experienced my first earthquake since being back in NZ this time. Something I could have lived without. It wasn’t even on my list of things to do!
Super scary but all is OK. It was a 5.7 magnitude, but shallow with an epicentre 8km deep which explained the classification of severe.
Luckily at the time, I was in the office that has recently been earthquake strengthened. The building swayed quite alarmingly, but that is actually meant to happen so all went to plan. Nothing broke, nothing fell off shelves, it was really just the disconcerting knowledge that the ground is moving, and everyone knows the ground is not meant to do that. Ever. It went on for about a minute (which in the throes of an earthquake is a really long time) and just when we thought maybe we should take evasive measures and do something, like crouch down, it stopped.
Ha! That’s when I found I was actually still shaking.
Straight afterwards I was Skype interviewing someone in a different building, and so I climbed the hill to the Terrace to be met by my contact (the Terrace is a road which runs along the top of the hill behind Lambton Quay, – on days with no earthquakes you can use lifts in local buildings to avoid walking up the hill yourself. Just press 4 and get to your destination without raising a sweat).
We walked up 3 flights of stairs to the 10th floor office as no one wanted to go near a lift.
Then I was nervous all interview (and I was the one conducting it!), sitting in a strange building next to a large plate-glass window on the 10th floor, knowing that earthquakes come in swarms (? like bees?), not generally singly.
When I had finished the interview, the receptionist mentioned I could walk back down to level 7 to exit onto the Terrace (where I came in) or keep going to level 1 and exit onto Lambton Quay, which was actually more direct to my next meeting.
So there I am clopping down narrow concrete flights of stairs as fast as I can in the guts of an unfamiliar building after an earthquake, thinking the whole time that if we get another one, I am so very screwed. All I needed was for the fluorescent lights above me to start flickering and I could have been in a horror movie.
Got down to level 1 all breathless and freaked out from my own thoughts and found the ground floor door is an alarmed emergency exit only!!!
Ok, turn around, heart rate now going a million miles an hour and climb back up to level 7, checking the doors on each level as I passed, attempting to get back INTO the building, but as I didn’t have an access card, that turned out not to be an option. All the while I am still mentally freaking out that I am actually in a stair-filled tunnel, in the middle of a building I don’t know, and I certainly don’t know how to get out of, or back IN to, when I finally find the smokers exit on 7 (free entry out to who knows what as all I can see is the edge of the building, and if wrong, I can’t actually get back into the building at all, as true to form it has an outside swipe access). Big breath, chance it, navigate around 6ft stacks of boxes and dumpster bins to discover (hallelujah!) the alleyway leading back to the Terrace and open space.
There is nothing like a bit of adrenaline in the morning if you can’t find coffee!
After that high-octane start to my Friday, we were pretty right after that, with only another strong earthquake in the afternoon.
I did also learn that my work colleagues can tell the magnitude of an earthquake as it is actually happening. Sitting on http://www.geonet.co.nz (probably most viewed internet site in Wellington this afternoon), I could see there have been about 12 more earthquakes in the same area since, most of which were undetectable, so hopefully that’s it for those tectonic plates at the moment.
Now I am home, I have the back door unlocked in case I need to escape into the garden in a hurry and I don’t have time to jiggle around with ye olde key. I might also see where I stored those grab and go bags I bought when I arrived…