Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Today at 8:43AM an earthquake struck.  Official reports are saying 7.6 on the Richter scale.  I think they are reporting one death of a woman from a heart attack, some serious building damage near the epicenter and the Guanacaste area (where the epicenter was) is without power.  Here in San Jose there was very minimal damage, but it was still a scary one.  Not my first one, but definitely the strongest.

My very first earthquake was the infamous Cinchona in 2009.  It was a 5.6 (correction- 6.1, thanks Randall!), epicenter in Poas, much closer to San Jose.  I remember sitting on my bed in my host family's house.  Everything started shaking and the mirror on the wall was slamming back and forth.  I was so confused.  What was going on?  My mama tica was shouting for me "Signe! Signe!"  I walked out of my room and she beckoned me into the doorway.  "Esta temblando!"  When I looked outside what I saw turned my whole world up-side down.  If I knew nothing else before that day, I knew the freaking ground didn't move.  But turns out it does.  I remember seeing the ground move like a wave.  My mama tica rented out the space in her front yard to the company next door to park and I saw the cars rolling back and forth over these ground waves.  It was very freaky.

Cinchona caused a lot of damage and a month later I went with a group called Un Techo Para Mi Pais to build emergency homes for those affected.  The image that struck me the most was seeing an empty house that looked completely normal from the front, and the back half was gone.  Slid down the hill.  Off a cliff.  Just gone.

My second earthquake was a little one.  I was on the computer in my university and the lights started shaking.  None of the ticos even blinked twice.  I still got up and left the building.

Which brings me to my third, and strongest, earthquake.  The one from today.  I was sitting in class and I felt the building shake.  I assumed it was a heavy truck going by as they shake the building sometimes.  As the shaking continued I thought "this is an earthquake".  I looked up at a student and we said at the same time "esta temblando!"  Nothing was falling off shelves, but this one was scary because it lasted for so long!  That and being on the second floor was a whole other ballgame I'd never experienced before.  It's been a long time since I last felt an earthquake but being on the second floor was definitely more of a roller coaster.  We got all the kids out of the building safely.

For the next hour or so, I felt sort of dizzy and off.  Like my equilibrium got messed up.  I don't remember that happening with Cinchona.  The director of the school decided to send everyone home, so I spent a long time passing around my phone for the kids to call home.  Luckily, I had switched to Movistar after coming home from Germany and I had signal.  ICE phones had none.

Once most of the kids had left, I went ahead and drove home.  The apartment is fine, the puppy is fine, Oscar says a lot of stuff fell over in his job, but that everyone is okay.  There were a few things toppled over here in the apartment, but nothing serious.  So I took a nap and went on a walk.  Life goes on after an earthquake...

Here's a video on facebook.  I can't just post it because blogger won't allow me.


Landslides are always one of the biggest problems after an earthquake.

Playa Ostinal


Paula Brown said...

I remember the one from 2009 as well, I can't image one stronger than that!! There was one in the Costan Rican and Panamanian border right??

Randall Arias said...

The Cinchona earthquake was actually a 6.1 on the Richter scale!

Signe said...

Thanks Randall for the correction!