Japan quake a reminder to be prepared, officials say - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Japan quake a reminder to be prepared, officials say

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The 8.9 magnitude quake that rumbled the coast of Japan early Friday morning was so massive it sent ripples across the world, including vibrations measured in Memphis.

University of Memphis geologist Gary Patterson said the waves, which moved at thousands of miles per hour, took about an hour to reach Memphis.

"This wasn't big enough for people to feel," he said.

Though Patterson viewed the quake from a scientist's perspective, it was also personal for him.  Patterson has aunts, uncles and cousins living throughout Japan.

"We're concerned about our relatives in the northern most Island," he said. "It's a mountainous island. There are lots of high places to take refuge in. Unfortunately, it probably didn't get a whole lot of warning for the tsunami."

After the quake, cell phone and internet connections were down in much of Japan. Patterson was only able to get a text message from a relative in one of the least affected regions.

"I got one word response...which means okay," he said.

While Japan is well prepared for sizable quakes, Patterson said the Mid-South has work to do.

"One very important thing to note about central U.S. earthquakes - it's shaking a different kind of crust than we see in California," he said.

That means quakes here would affect much larger areas.

"The biggest concern is un-reinforced masonry buildings; the kinds of brick buildings you'd see in any town square in the Midwest and South," he said.

As images of the devastation in Japan were transmitted around the world, a previously scheduled earthquake drill held at all Memphis City Schools Friday took on a new meaning.

"You're never 100 percent prepared for something like this, but you can be as well prepared as you possibly can," said superintendent Kriner Cash.

The Central United States Earthquake Consortium organized the drill as part of its first Great Central U.S. ShakeOut.  The drill was designed to shake conventional wisdom about what to do in a quake.

"You don't get in a doorway," said Jim Wilkinson, the executive director the Consortium. "That was an old practice carried over. Doors are moving, potentially getting your hands caught. We advise you get under a desk or sturdy piece of furniture. If that's not available, we advise you duck and cover your head."

For more information on the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut: http://www.shakeout.org/centralus/dropcoverholdon/

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