The Kumamoto Earthquakes

Long time, no write on this side. Sorry for the delay; I'm kinda obsessed with my car. ;-)

On the evening of April 14, at 9:26, I experienced the biggest earthquake in my life. The wife and I were watching TV when it hit. It shook us both enough that we held on to each other until it was over. The house rattled like I've never heard or felt. We were fine and headed outside to check on the dog and the neighbors. Everyone was fine, including the dog. We went back in and checked on the house. Virtually nothing was amiss inside (and the next day during daylight, nothing outside either). Then the aftershocks started, about one every 10-20 minutes. That night I slept very little because of the continuous shaking. As I write this, I haven't heard the most recent number, but we are currently at well over 2,000 aftershocks.

How big was it? The Japanese scale is closed, going from 1 to 7. The first earthquake registered at 7 on the Japanese scale. As it turns out, that was magnitude 6.5 on the Richter scale, an open-ended scale designed to measure quakes of any size. Just know that a 7 on the Japanese scale is big—perhaps a 6 or more on the Richter scale—but we cannot know really how big.

The Japanese disaster warning infrastructure is very robust. My wife's phone went off during the earthquake, and it was announced on national TV. I was surprised when several Tesla-related folks contacted me by phone, email, and the LINE app right after the first quake. They all said they heard Kumamoto, and they thought of me. Thank you again.

Satur-day and -night were uneventful, although the aftershocks did their thing. We went out to dinner at the same restaurant we had been to the night before, mainly because it was the only place open. The supermarkets were closed to do some clean up of spilled goods, etc. Again, nothing had fallen or broken at our house after the first earthquake.

I went to bed hoping the shaking would subside a bit. I was woken up at 1:25 am by the loudest cracking sound and had to put both my arms out on either side to keep from being thrown off my bed. I was moved up and down and back and forth like nothing I had every experienced before. I honestly thought it was all over. Amazingly, the house survived intact but was turned into a giant mess. The power went out, so I was stumbling around the mess with my iPhone's flashlight. The wife came upstairs to check on me; I was so out of it, I hadn't realized I needed to check on her. We were both okay, as was the dog. We knocked on some neighbors' homes, and others came outside. We all gathered in a parking lot near our homes for the next several hours. I believe the power was out for 3-4 hours, but I cannot remember exactly. Here are a few shots after the second earthquake.

Most of the stuff in the bathroom tumbled.

Most of the stuff in the bathroom tumbled.

Our pantry was almost impassible.

Our pantry was almost impassible.

The Study: That bookcase was full of books and magazines. Computer and printer both went to the floor, damaged, but still work.

The Study: That bookcase was full of books and magazines. Computer and printer both went to the floor, damaged, but still work.

That second earthquake, of which I had been warned might happen, was still rated a 7 on the Japanese scale, but was magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale. Since each 0.1 on that scale represents twice the power of the lower number, the second earthquake was 8 times more powerful. Oh, I failed to mention earlier, our home is about 4.5 km from the epicenter, so we felt the brunt of the force.

The power came back on in the early hours, and we all returned to our homes, to still many aftershocks. Interestingly, we never lost our Internet connections. During the power outage, we used our phone provider's connection, and our home WiFi when power was restored. We were able to communicate with friends and family the entire time. However, we had no water. This turned out to be a pretty big deal, as we had no running water for 4 days, and could not drink the water for more than a week. Several main water pipes broke in town, so service was cut off.

The wife and I did what we could to clean up and put things back in order. We used sterilizing gel to keep our hands clean, and we used the toilets as little as possible. We had no water backup, as water cannot be stored, but we had a few bottled drinks. At one point, we decided to go out and see if any water was available and what facilities were working. Every business we walked by was closed. We saw the folks running the restaurant we went to the two nights before, and everyone was okay and in good spirits. We were directed by a nice gentleman to a rehabilitation center near where I used to work. They had running water and usable toilets and were open to the public. It felt great to wash our hands; it shocked me how much black came off what I was hoping were at least sterile hands. After we hopped in the car in search of water. We waited in a line of cars for 60 minutes to get to a school that had fresh water from a truck. Once I got the car in, there was no place to park. The wife had gone in ahead to get in the water line, which she found out was 2 hours long. I drove back out, we talked on the phone, and decided to try another spot. We went there to find out that the water had run out, and they were serving soup in unwashed reused bowls. We were thankful that food was available, but we were not ready to eat off used bowls. We headed home empty handed.

Later that night, we heard that a water truck had arrived at still another spot. We hopped in the car and found the distribution area. There was a truck from Kagoshima providing water to people waiting in line. My wife and I waited in line and were told that we could take only one bag per family. This is what we used for the next day or so:

Our source of potable water for the next day or so: 6 liters

Our source of potable water for the next day or so: 6 liters

The truck was from Kagoshima and the bag Nagasaki. Thanks to those prefectures for helping us out. We used that bag of water to drink and wash our dishes and hands for the next couple of days.

We couldn't get to sleep in the house because of all the aftershocks. We decided to sleep in my Tesla Model S starting the night after the main earthquake. It has climate control, comfortable front seats, plenty of room to hold our emergency supplies and clothes and air suspension to handle the quakes. We ended up sleeping in the car for four nights.

We still had to work out the toilet and bathing situation. A neighbor told us that there was a water leak somewhere and that we could get some for non-drinking uses. We took a cart and three buckets over and filled them up. We gave the first load to our next door neighbors who have no car or strength to carry that much water. We brought the second load home.

We used this water to flush our toilets.

We used this water to flush our toilets.

The wife had to look up how to manually flush our high tech toilets and away I went. We got them cleaned out and refreshed. We still had to work out how to get a bath or shower in. We had heard that all the malls were damaged so much they were all closed, but one had a kind of market open in the parking lot. We went there, bought some food and drink (got a 2-liter bottle of water, too). Then we went looking for a place to clean up. We went to 6 onsen (hot springs) before we could get in (some were closed, some too crowded, some not ready). A place in Ueki, north of Kumamoto, was offering free baths to Kumamoto residents. That is where we ended up. It took us six hours to get there, and three hours to get home. The highway around us was destroyed, so everyone was traveling on the same two-lane road. When we arrived, it was so crowded I took only a shower, but it felt so good to get cleaned up. Thank you Ueki.

The next day, one of the wife's friends stopped by with some food and a bunch of water. Her area was not hit as hard, and no damage to her house. We have since bought a large plastic container designed to hold and dispense lots of water. We'll be ready next time. We got water back a few days after, but it was only a trickle at first. I'm guessing those closer to the source may have been filling up their bathtubs, just in case. We couldn't drink that water for several day, although I did drink some before I heard that. Gulp...

Running water returns to our home.

Running water returns to our home.

We've got several small cracks on the outside of the house. They are being repaired as I type this. We have tons of tears in the wallpaper inside our house. The panels (think drywall) on the inside of the house all moved back and forth during the main quake; that action tore the paper. Check these out:

The panels moved so much, the wallpaper tore.

The panels moved so much, the wallpaper tore.

Same here, with the wall kind of pulled out as well.

Same here, with the wall kind of pulled out as well.

A few places had some actual movement in the walls and house supports. This one is particularly nasty:

The frame, the wall, or both pulled apart in the tatami room.

The frame, the wall, or both pulled apart in the tatami room.

Life gradually has gone back to "normal" for us. The inside of the house is still a mess where the wallpaper is torn (about 100 places), but we can do all we were doing before this all started. I will say, though, that this is not over. We drove through Mashiki, where the epicenters are, and it's very sad to see the damage that was done there. So many homes and businesses are just collapsed; others are leaning over and so cannot be used. We saw homes standing with broken windows and the wind was blowing the curtains outside. I cannot write how sad it was to see. We were lucky to survive such power thrown at us. I heard early on that there were 40,000 homes damaged and 40,000 homeless. Recently I heard 1/4 of the homeless won a lottery to move into temporary housing that has been built after this disaster. I do not know how many people have given up on the area and moved away.

I'll finish with a sign the wife and I saw one day when we were going to Fukuoka to take a break from our shaky life:

Gambaro Kumamoto!

Gambaro Kumamoto!

It says Gambaro Kumamoto! or Hang in There Kumamoto! Keep those who are less fortunate in your thoughts, please.

I have officially retired

Yesterday was my last day working at PUK. I was a bit too busy to get it on the blog, so here we are. I taught English, Spanish, and various computer skills there for 22 years. I enjoyed my time there, but for personal reasons and goals, it was time for me to move on. Counting my time teaching Spanish and tutoring at the ALI at SDSU as an undergrad, I taught for 33 years.   I cannot say that I will never teach again, but I'm in for a long break now. 

Once I get some things done, this blog will be back. Thank you for your patience.  

jklmelton.com blogs break--use sunscreen kids!

Things have been quiet here, I know. I'm on day three of a trip to the hospital to have a bit of skin cancer removed. Not the bad kind, so no worries. Technically, it's a basal cell carcinoma of the benign variety. It was cut out of my chest yesterday. Today they'll check the stitches. If all is well, I can leave tomorrow and finish the recovery at home. 

I spent more than 10 summers plus other seasons in the sun in Southern California, wearing nothing more than a swim suit. Since we had no air conditioning, the pool around the corner was where I went to keep cool. Then, during my teens, I played water polo and swam competitely. The beaches of So. Ca. were also where I spent a lot of time. I never heard of the ozone layer or its value in protecting our skin when I was younger. Sunscreen wasn't really talked about. If I put anything on, it was suntan lotion or even suntan oil. The goal when I was young was to get a nice tan. 

So there's your lesson: use plenty of sunscreen for your type of skin and activity. If you sweat or get in the water, reapply again.  

I'll be back with something more interesting in a few days.  

Jakarta, Indonesia!

Two of the jklmeltons are currently in Jakarta, Indonesia--a first-time visit for both. I haven't had much time to use the wifi, much less write anything, blog-wise. The heat, humidity, and traffic have taken a bit of a toll, so we asked for a bit of downtime to recharge our batteries. 

Having said that, the food is delicious, the people generous and incredibly friendly, and the sights amazing.  

We are here on an official visit, although the jklmeltons are not the official people. Others from my university (the Prefectural University of Kumamoto) and Nagasaki University have paved a long path here and are doing incredible work to help the people and the environment. I'll write more after I get back and sort through all the pictures I've taken. Suffice to say much has been done and much more needs to be done. 

More to come, much more...