I was going to write about this yesterday, but I was concerned that people might think I was pulling an April Fool’s prank, so I decided to wait until today instead…
On March 31, 2020 at 4:56 PM PDT, I felt my first high-rise earthquake.
There were some pretty severe earthquakes in Ridgecrest, CA nine months ago that should’ve been felt from Las Vegas, but I happened to be in Redondo Beach at that time, and I was in Tempo‘s PUBG team house rather than at home in my condo. There had been nothing too noticeable since then, until two days ago when I heard my building creaking and crackling.
For those who don’t know, I live in a high-rise condominimum complex on the Las Vegas Strip. I live in one of the upper units, putting me around 400 feet above ground level. High-rise buildings on the Pacific Coast have some pretty good anti-earthquake measures, but that doesn’t stop them from making discomforting sounds and swaying back and forth for a while.
After I noticed that my building was indeed dancing, the first thing that popped into my mind was whether Southern California was hit by “The Big One,” a nickname for the long-overdue catastrophic earthquake that’s anticipated to cause $200 billion in damages along the San Andreas fault. Even though Las Vegas is hundreds of miles away from SoCal, we’re still going to experience some mild shaking when The Big One hits—though with no damage, obviously.
I messaged one of my co-workers a minute after I confirmed that there was indeed an earthquake happening somewhere, and asked him to check Twitter to see if our good friends in California were sending out distress signals. In the meantime, I was still scratching my head in confusion, wondering why my building was still rocking back and forth, and concluding that earthquakes are a lot spookier in high-rise buildings than I thought, because it takes a while for the building to become stationary again.
Not long after, my co-worker got back to me with an update from Twitter… apparently I had felt an earthquake that was epicentered in Idaho. … Idaho?
At this point, there were two possibilities. The first was that there was also an earthquake somewhere else at the very exact time, and it was just a massive coincidence that I had felt that different earthquake at the same time that a fairly severe one hit Idaho. The second possibility was that “a fairly severe one” was an understatement, and Idaho was basically liquefied mush at this point, because the earthquake was actually so strong that it was able to be felt from about 600 miles away.
I dug into it a bit afterwards, and apparently, I was wrong in both predictions. The United States Geological Survey did report an earthquake in Idaho, but it was a magnitude 6.5 epicentered 70 kilometers west of Challis.
Now wondering whether or not I was having hallucinations, I did my own searching on Twitter by querying the keyword “earthquake” and restricting geotagging to the Las Vegas Valley. I was relieved when I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt it—other people on the Strip and in the downtown area also reported feeling the earthquake. (And of course, there was also the fair share of people claiming that we were lying just for the attention—which I don’t blame them for, because I agree that it seems pretty impossible that we felt that Idaho earthquake.)
I imagine that this is just going to end up being a part of high-rise life that I didn’t account for until just now. Similar to how a flick of the wrist while holding a whip can cause the loop of the whip to reach the speed of sound and create a sonic boom, it appears like even the slightest ground motion can send the top of a high-rise building rocking back and forth for a minute or two.