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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Forget the Tshirt, I Went on Vacation and Got an Earthquake

I spent last week getting sunburn in the resort town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. I won’t extol the virtues of early and often application of sunscreen here. That’s another public service announcement for another day and better told by the people at the SunWise Skin Cancer Prevention Program.

I was in “The DR” to celebrate a friend’s wedding, which began with a small outdoor ceremony. I was looking beach chic in linen pants and a polo in a color that Banana Republic calls Pierre turquoise. The bride looked nice too.

Seismotectonics of the Caribbean Region
Following the ceremony there was a social hour. Beverages and small bites were served. Early on, I was conversing with another guest (most likely on heady topics like the vastness of space J) when the earth shuddered. The conversation continued undeterred, but in that moment my mind questioned “What was that?” It wasn’t until 90 seconds later when someone asked “Did you feel the earthquake” that I realized what “that” was.

As fate would have it, I had to visit the Caribbean to experience my first earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the epicenter of the magnitude 5.8 quake was 24 miles from Punta Cana. Though no injuries or damage was reported, the eerie sensation of the ground moving under me felt as unnatural as Italian night at the resort buffet.
According to the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS), the Arizona Broadband Seismic Network, which consists of seven seismic monitors stationed around the state, recorded more than 50 earthquakes in 2013. Most of those went unfelt, but earthquake faults in Arizona, surrounding states and Mexico are capable of damaging earthquakes up to magnitude 7.5.

The area of the North Rim Lodge at Grand Canyon has been the site of several earthquake swarms, a term used to describe many earthquakes happening within a short period of time. The Arizona Earthquake Information Center at Northern Arizona University has observed four earthquakes in that area in 2014. The latest struck on May 20; it was a M2.17.

While residents of Coconino, Mohave, Yavapai and Yuma counties are at the greatest risk for earthquakes, no Arizona community is completely invulnerable to the effects of a moderate to large magnitude earthquake.  For that reason, AZGS and the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) organize an annual Great Arizona ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill. This year’s is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2014, at 10:16 a.m.
1) Drop to the floor 2) Take Cover under a desk or table 3) Hold On until the shaking stops

In that moment, AZGS and ADEM encourages everyone to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” for ShakeOut. ShakeOut is described as an “opportunity for people in homes, schools and organizations to practice what to do during earthquakes, and to improve preparedness” in the community. Over 116,000 people registered to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” in Arizona last year.

Go to  to pledge your organization’s participation in the ShakeOut drill. Once registered, you will receive information on how to plan your drill, and engage your friends, family and coworkers.

For more information on the Arizona Broadband Seismic Network and to see the last 24 hours of seismic activity as recorded by the Network seismometers, visit  

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