Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Smashing Like Fists On the Ground

Here in Utah, the local "Fox" television affiliate has been rubbing our faces with a frightening blurb about the Great Salt Lake seismically rising against us in the form of a tsunami. Before you fall down trembling in fear, I would like to point out that Utah is a very boring place. Once things like explosions in the Middle East, Whitehouse scandal and school shootings have become common place, it becomes the duty of our local stations to come up with terrifying "what if" stories. "The Big One" earthquake stories are a local favorite. Big earthquake? That's been overdone. Big earthquake sending a tidal wave like God's angry fist into Utah's greatest cities? Now we're cooking with fire... or at least a hotplate... maybe set to "low."

First, the Great Salt Lake has an average depth of 10-20 feet. It has been substantially lower in recent years to the point that good ol' boys have to be discouraged from tearing up the dried lake bed in their pickup trucks. The whole "Salt Lake Tsunami" headline reads like a recent caption I saw in The Onion: "Philadelphia completely unprepared for full-scale zombie invasion." But I looked into it anyway. It appears that after all those people died last year in the tsunami in asia, the Deseret News jumped on the Scare-Train and printed an article about a "tsunami" that occurred in Utah in 1909: http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,600102118,00.html

There is also a link to original articles from 1909 within that article. Here are some notable lines:

"A cat was so frightened it jumped from the Saltair building into the lake and did not reappear." That may not sound so bad, but that cat probably had an OWNER. Or at least someone who fed it. Think about it.

"...lake water is so dense with brine that it packs more wallop than ordinary sea water." It's like some kind of super-water from another planet!

"A geologist named Mike Low wrote that the old wooden railroad trestle was 12 feet above the lake's surface, meaning the waves had to be higher than that." Only to be rebuttled with, "I have to admit that seems pretty high to me for a magnitude 6 quake, but that's all the information we have, really," said Jim Pechmann, seismologist with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. "...I think the height estimate may be right, (or) maybe it was exaggerated." Way to take a stand there, Jim.

(link) "Dr. Pack, in a statement to The News this morning, said: ...If such a disturbance as this should visit this region again, I am sure that not a house would be left standing in this valley." Does it take a rocket scientist to scare us right? Don't worry, he took it upon himself to notify the public, shouting it where every red-blooded american with two brain cells goes to get his news: "Prof. Pack said that he would have at the fair tonight records of last night's earthquake shocks for general distribution." Go out with a bang, Salt Lake City.

(link) "The birds were shaken out of the trees..." I would stake my life that at least some of those birds jumped, or even soared, of their own free will.

(link) "One lady became so frightened that she ran a couple of blocks to the home of a relative, clad in her night clothes only." Skank. She knew what she was doing.

(link) "Rifles leaning against walls fell down and in the shop of the Signal corps a row of bluestone batteries was shaken from a shelf and upset." Okay, so this happened in an armory, but the part about rifles sounds so Utah. And what is more disturbing than the idea of batteries being upset?

(link) "As far as can be learned no extensive damage was done." That pretty much sums it up. Be afraid, Utah. Be very afraid. The list goes on and on. Lights flickered. Clocks stopped. Water spilled over the edge of the basin. Gossipy telephone operators had to be restrained. Hotel residents had to be calmed by "sauve employees."

This sensationalized bit of "news" sounds as fun as a run through the sprinkler. We won't talk about valid topics of concern, like the dam above Heber City being a little pile of rocks nestled in the nook of a large fault. Why not? Because we like splashing in our reservoir, you nay-saying liberal filth! Let's stick with the made up stuff.

The thing is, natural disaster is not the kind of attention you want, Utah. It sounds exciting to be in the spotlight and to be looked at as brave, strong survivors but, no, you will regret it. There is reason to believe that some poor souls will eventually catch the wave but where and when? Tune in at 9pm. Fox 13 News.


Gordon said...


I'm up on the hill. I kind of like the idea of a wall of dirty smelly water sweeping the west side. But would they notice?

PsychoIntern said...

Loved the commentary on the article...Hilarious!