On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan, unleashing a savage tsunami. It was Friday at 2:46 p.m. in Misawa, Japan. I was just logging off my computer and getting ready to wake my 3 yr old son when the house started to shake. It was a subtle shake that would usually stop quickly but this wasn’t the case. It gradually got more intense and lasted for several minutes. Some things had moved or fallen and the power was out. I quickly grabbed my youngest son and headed out the door to meet my eldest (who was 5 yrs old at the time) at the bus stop since he was coming home from school. While we waited at the bus stop several very intense aftershocks occurred. Every time this happened, traffic pulled over and stopped. Finally, the school bus arrived only to be delayed by another intense aftershock. Once off the bus, we walked our way back up the hill. Many people were standing outside their homes afraid to go back in.
Things were quiet for a bit but without power or cell service we had no idea what was going on. Little did we know what was happening just a few hours south of us. By Saturday morning we had heard of the devastation and were able to get communication to my parents in the Pacific Northwest who called other family members to let them know we were alright. By Sunday morning we luckily got our power back. That’s when we began to hear of the aftermath and devastation up and down the coast.
Many weeks and months later, we continued to feel the aftershocks and because of all this suffered a mild form of post traumatic stress (this is the best way I can describe it). Days and weeks after there were many trips, formed by our military, that would take bus loads of people willing to help the Japanese shovel mud and move debri to cleanup so they could eventually rebuild. My husband and I helped on several of these trips and we made many donations of food, clothing and furniture. Below are just a few pictures I took of the devastation in our local area.
Here are some of the amazing facts about the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
- The earthquake shifted Earth on its axis of rotation by redistributing mass, like putting a dent in a spinning top. The temblor also shortened the length of a day by about a microsecond.
- More than 5,000 aftershocks hit Japan in the year after the earthquake, the largest a magnitude 7.9.
- About 250 miles (400 km) of Japan’s northern Honshu coastline dropped by 2 feet (0.6 meters), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- The jolt moved Japan’s main island of Honshu eastward by 8 feet (2.4 meters).
- The Pacific Plate slid westward near the epicenter by 79 feet (24 m).
- In Antarctica, the seismic waves from the earthquake sped up the Whillans Ice Stream, jolting it by about 1.5 feet (0.5 meters).
- The tsunami broke icebergs off the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
- As the tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean, a 5-foot high (1.5 m) high wave killed more than 110,000 nesting seabirds at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
- In Norway, water in fjords pointing toward Japan sloshed back and forth as seismic waves from the earthquake raced through.
- The earthquake produced a low-frequency rumble called infrasound, which traveled into space and was detected by the Goce satellite.
- Buildings destroyed by the tsunami released thousands of tons of ozone-destroying chemicals and greenhouse gases into the air.