The past 48 hours have been very eventful. As most of the country knows, a 7.0 earthquake with an epicenter about 16 miles from my front door hit Anchorage at 8:29 Friday morning. The depth of 25 miles meant it was pretty close to the surface overall.
Typically I would be at work at that time, but luckily it was my Friday off and instead of being home alone with the girls, the in laws were here visiting.
On a normal off day I would have been up and quickly showering, but instead was ahead of the game, in part because Emerie refused to go back to bed after the morning feed. She had one on one mom snuggles for a little while and then I handed her off to Grandma and went back upstairs to pump before the other two awoke. About eight minutes in the room started shaking. I paused for about 10 seconds, figuring that it would stop and we’d continue on with our day, typical Alaska style. But after 10 seconds, it accelerated and everything started crashing down and the sound of the house groaning and creaking became SO loud. The sound of a big earthquake is difficult to explain. It’s very eerie and you can often hear the whoosh right beforehand, as it builds in power before the first jolt. I immediately dove off my bed, ripped off my pumping gear off and threw it across the bedroom, running like a bat out of hell into the nursery for Reagan and Harper, knowing Emerie was okay downstairs with Grandma.
Both girls were in their cribs, calm, but eyes open. I scooped up Reagan and put her in the crib next to Harper. What else can you do? I just stood over them while the earth quaked. It was loud and eerie, listening to my house creek and shift and “roll” from the vibrations. I could hear the in laws and animals downstairs reacting similarly to myself and the crashes of falling objects and pictures nearby.
I’m not sure how long the actual quake lasted, but being from Alaska recognized a decent aftershock would occur. Grandma brought Emerie up and put her in the crib with the sisters and we chatted about what to do next.
Four minutes later, at 8:33 and then 8:35, two aftershocks followed (a 4.8 followed by a 5.7). At this point our phones alerted to a tsunami warning to seek higher ground. We live close to the coastline and while we are above the bluffs, we are still only a mile or two from them and would not benefit from hanging around for a possible tsunami. My phone pinpointed the quake was north of us and across the inlet from Anchorage, meaning any possible water movement would take a tad bit longer to reach us.
My neighbors thought the same thing! We all got dressed, put the girls down in the living room in their car seats, sleep sacks and all, and quickly threw a few necessities together and started the car.
We loaded everything up and were out of the house in exactly 20 minutes, with the in laws behind me with the dogs. The phone lines were still working at that point and I briefly checked in with Craig and then called a friend on the hillside to see if we could come up.
It was as if the city sprang to life. Everyone was on the roads. The main roads toward hillside were jam packed with red taillights as everyone tried to drive up the mountainside. We took the back Old Seward route to Rabbit Creek, gambling that we could get across the (hopefully) usable bridge and up the mountain before any possible tsunami.
The girls greatly cooperated, throughout the entire 30 minutes or so before we made it to Joni’s house, they were calm and chatting, no crying. They would normally be hanging out in the living room, starting their day and getting ready for breakfast while announcing to me they are hungry.
All of hillside was out of power, which was not surprising. Joni’s house included, but it was still warm and that worked out great. Once settled in on her living room floor and unpacking the girls and changing diapers, we realized we were missing one of the main parts to all the bottles, meaning I had plenty of milk ready to go but no usable bottles. We tried one out from Joni that Emerie was mostly okay with, but the other two wouldn’t drink. We managed to get a text through to Craig to go get bottles when he made it out of downtown, since the tsunami was unlikely but no official word yet.
Eventually we had Craig, bottles, and good company who made coffee with their generator!
And lots of babies to entertain and play with, taking our minds off the aftershocks and stress of the morning.
We drove around a little on the way home, around 11:30, because the girls fell asleep and we wanted to ensure a decent nap in lieu of such a chaotic morning. Making sure to go around any major bridges or roadways we heard were damaged, we wandered the southeast neighborhoods for a few minutes.
Once getting home, the aftershocks continued, which definitely contributed to continual stressed out nerves, although the babies didn’t seem too concerned. Snuggling a baby helps with that, and we had plenty to go around!
That night we had a decent aftershock in the evening, right after the girls were settled, and made the decision to bring them all in our room for the night in case another large one hit. Every little creak and shift in the house kept me wide eyed all night, but the girls slept pretty well. I think Reagan either gets nervous from the quakes or can feel our stress, because she did some shrieking after a few of the bigger ones overnight.
As I write this, I can feel another small aftershock, kinda of like I’m swaying but I’m not. This weekend has been very eerie (I can’t think of a better word than that) and I try to stay close to the girls in case I need to epically move them out of harms way again.
I’m very thankful to have had extra hands that morning, for good friends who opened their home to us, and for the safety of all our friends and family up here. Ask to the crew working to fix the damaged roads, bridges, highways, water systems, and electricity! Our city is definitely working together in the face of something scary.
Since the initial quake there have been five aftershocks over a 5.0, and hundreds smaller. It’s like being on a mini roller coaster that you didn’t ask to ride, and at random times throughout the day with no warning. I don’t even like roller coasters.
What did I learn from this experience as a mom? A lot of things I didn’t initially consider beforehand:
- Have a PLAN: earthquakes are common here (not ones that big tho) so we should have a preset plan in place.
- If you have to evacuate, knowing phones will likely go out, leave a note for other family members who might come home to an empty house! Or have a planned rendezvous place.
- Have the car seats ready to go in the car! This helped immensely and would have taken a lot of time had this happened when I was home alone.
- Make sure all the most important necessities are collected if there is time, like bottles, milk, and Random things like grabbing my pumping gear in case we were gone a long time. Water and food for adults is also important and something we forgot as we focused on the babies’ needs.
- How would I have gotten all three immediately out of the house if I had to? Efficient answer…a laundry basket. Entirely doable to put three littles in it with a blanket and run out the door. It feels good to know that now, as in the moment I committed to staying put because I didn’t have any other ideas in mind.
- Consider what things can fall and where they are in proximity to babies. Pictures, plants, shelving, etc.
- Material possessions mean nothing! Make sure the ones you love are safe and accounted for, fur babies included.
Hopefully the aftershocks will stop soon, for now we all have Monday off of work until our buildings are cleared as safe and repaired. Time for more snuggles.