The Ponce Chronicles — Earthquake Edition, Part 2

(Continued from Part One)

As far as we could tell, our house suffered only minor damage from the big earthquake, though downtown in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the central plaza was cordoned off while damage was assessed and cleared. And in nearby Guánica and other towns, the effects were far more profound. Homes were gone, schools were flattened, people were sleeping outside in fear of further quakes. The people we knew locally were all okay.

Here’s a map showing the epicenter of the quakes, and Ponce, where we were.

Map of Puerto Rico showing epicenter of earthquakes

Small tremors continued, but we did our best to take them with equanimity, while we got back to our business of scraping and painting, and making numerous small repairs. Our dogs at home were going to spend more time in the doggie hotel than planned, but we were fortunate enough to get our flights changed so that Allysen and Jayce would leave later on the same day as originally scheduled, and I would be on their flight. The only hitch was, we were now driving to San Juan to catch our flight home; but on the plus side, we were leaving at a civilized hour during the day, and not at 5 a.m.

Stray cat

Local entertainment was provided in the form of young stray cats wandering through the property, and once a patrol of dogs that got in through the fence. (For my animal report, see here.)

Another big thumper, a 6.0 quake, struck on the morning of our last day in Puerto Rico. It shook the house alarmingly, as we were engaged in a frantic race to finish final repair projects, clean up, get everything put away, and get on the road for the two-hour drive to San Juan. It was scary, but everything seemed okay, and we got right back to work.

Our last two days had been spent in the traditional way: working to frayed nerves to get painting projects done (Allysen and Jayce), feverishly finishing various small repairs (me), and with mutters of resignation moving onto the list for next year the things we didn’t get done this year. The power was out again, because of a blown transformer downtown that knocked out our neighborhood. Our little generator-that-could was reserved for the fridge and microwave and phone chargers. Fixing things by flashlight! That’s the ticket! Do, or do not. There is no try. Hope it all looks good in daylight.

From the various quakes, we suffered some minor (we hope) cracks in extremities of the house. But after that final one in the morning, Frances next door reported seeing a building collapse downtown, from her terrace vantage point. Many damaged structures will probably have to be knocked down. Still another quake hit that evening, but we were already winging our way northward at 530 mph, and heard about it later.

Throughout this ordeal, our personal suffering was largely limited to sleepless nights and repeatedly having the bejesus scared out of us as our concrete and cinder-block house (built by Allysen’s dad to exacting standards) shook and shuddered and swayed around us. But for others nearby, the costs were physical and dire. Folks still getting back on their feet from Hurricane Maria got slammed once more by nature. Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes are not a part of the normal life of Puerto Rico. It is a cruel irony that the area hardest hit by Maria was also at the center of the quake activity. This beautiful island needs help. It’s part of the United States, and it deserves to be treated that way.

Coming home from a trip, especially a work trip, is always a great relief to me. But never have I been so eager to get home as from this one. I woke up this morning, earlier than I wanted, and couldn’t get back to sleep even in the comfort of my own bed. With every quiver of our three-story wood-frame house, I thought, It’s just the wind, just the wind. Is it an earthquake? No, no, it’s just the wind.

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About Jeffrey A. Carver

Jeffrey A. Carver grew up on the Lake Erie shores of Huron, Ohio, but eventually settled in the Boston area, where he lives with his family. Currently he's writing a new volume in his popular series The Chaos Chronicles. Another of his favorite places to spin tales is his Star Rigger universe; one story in that world, Eternity's End, was a finalist for the Nebula Award. Among his stand-alone works are The Rapture Effect, and Battlestar Galactica, a novelization of the SciFi Channel's miniseries. By many accounts, his work is hard science fiction, but his greatest love remains character, story, and a healthy sense of wonder. His short work is collected in Going Alien and Reality and Other Fictions. As a teacher, Carver once hosted an educational TV series on the writing of SF and fantasy. A course that grew out of that is online, free to all, at writesf.com. In person, he's taught at MIT, Odyssey, and the New England Young Writer's Conference; and he is cofounder of the Ultimate SF Writing Workshop, in the Boston area. Visit his website and blog to learn more about his work.

Comments

The Ponce Chronicles — Earthquake Edition, Part 2 — 5 Comments

  1. Glad you’re home.

    There are two things to maybe check out, that could bite you in the butt months or years later. One, plumbing connections. (That one went blooie on us a few months after a bad quake.) Then there was the roof that had developed a huge crack all down one wall. Since it never really rains here, it was years before we discovered it when a real storm came through, and we had water sheeting down the inside wall and pooling in the kitchen. The repair guys said it looked like typical quake damage.

  2. Thanks, Sherwood! As we generally only get down there once a year, we’ll have to count on our caretaker to let us know of any problems. (Well, and any paying guests, who I hope will start coming again after the earthquakes stop.)

    I did give the roof a walkaround, as I had to go up there to secure a skylight that was booming in the wind. All *seemed* okay, though of course cracks could have occurred under the plastic sealant. Probably no way to know, unless things start opening up. Vigilance is the watchword, I guess.

  3. Glad to hear that you and your family are well. One small correction though, earthquakes are common in Puerto Rico as the island sits at the edge of the Caribbean plate where it rubs constantly against the Atlantic shelf. However, the last big one was in 1918 and since then, only minor temblors have been reported, which most people don’t feel. For more detailed information you may want to check out the website of the Red Sísmica de Puerto Rico. Also, I have other several sources in English and in Spanish in my blog if anybody is interested.