My First Earthquake in New Zealand

Long story short: I survived a 6.2 magnitude earthquake, and had no idea it was classified as severe. [“survived” is a little dramatic – it really wasn’t that bad]


Before coming to New Zealand, I had heard that earthquakes were pretty common. Being from the Midwest, I was actually kind of looking forward to experiencing one. I’m the type of person that loves to watch a storm roll in, and I relish a good tornado watch [except as soon as it turns warning I’m absolutely terrified]. So I figured an earthquake was all a part of the Kiwi experience.

When we first arrived in NZ, we flew into Christchurch and spent a couple of days exploring there. We weren’t exactly in love with the city, as it seemed a bit deserted and not much was going on. We soon realized the city was still trying to recover from the 2011 earthquake. Earthquakes are no joke, but I was still pretty intrigued by them.

Fast-forward about two months to April 23rd. I woke up about 1 in the afternoon [I work nights – don’t judge] to this note.


My boyfriend and I couldn’t really make out what it said – all we knew for sure was something happened around 10:30. We thought maybe we were supposed to put the trash out, but we slept in too late. We carried on with our morning and hoped whatever the note said wasn’t a big deal. I kept attempting to read it because I was curious. Finally, about an hour later I’m looking at it again and realized it said earthquake! I think I shouted because I got excited that there had been an earthquake. It was my first earthquake, and not surprisingly, I slept right through it. [My dad always says I could sleep through a train coming through my room.]

Butttt, what happened the next day is what I really consider to be my first earthquake.

Friday, April 24th.

I worked the day shift for once and got home about 3. I think it was maybe an hour later my boyfriend and I were sitting at the kitchen table when the shaking started. It took me a split second to realize what was happening. And for some reason, my first reaction was to stand up – don’t ask. I think maybe because I heard being in a doorway is the safest place during an earthquake. The floor was vibrating beneath my feet, and I think the best way to describe it was a feeling of drunkenness. Everything was kind of wobbling and rolling, and I felt a little dizzy. I actually remember saying “I feel like I’m drunk.” At that point, my boyfriend told me to sit down. It started shaking more violently, and I jumped onto his lap. It seemed to last for quite awhile – maybe 30 seconds – and at the end there was one final jolt, in which the entire house seemed to shift its location…then all was still.

It was exactly like I imagined it would be, except nothing fell off the walls or out of cupboards, though most houses here are pretty earthquake safe. [All our cups, plates, and bowls are kept in drawers or cabinets close to the ground, and pictures and mirrors are well anchored to the walls.]

I definitely felt the earthquake that time, but didn’t have much to compare it to. When our roommate came home she asked if we were okay and how the house was. We had no idea it was a 6.2 [in some areas higher] magnitude earthquake, which is classified as severe. I started reading about it, and one man described it as

“the worst he had felt in 20 years.”

I was definitely more spooked after the fact, as I was anticipating the aftershocks. It definitely puts you on edge a bit, and it’s similar to the feeling you get after being on a boat for a while. You still feel like you’re rocking, and each truck that passes, each gust of wind that blows makes you tense, as if the shaking is about to start again.

Fun Fact

There’s a site that registers all the earthquakes in New Zealand, and I had no idea they happen everyday – sometimes almost every hour – although most go unnoticed and are classified as weak or light. Check it out here.

Although that first [or second] earthquake was kind of thrilling to me, I’m so thankful it wasn’t too bad, and no major damage was caused, especially after the earthquake that happened in Nepal about a week later. I realize it could’ve been so much worse.

Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, I can’t say which one I’d prefer – but at least tornadoes and hurricanes provide some warning time…

What do you think is the worst natural disaster? What have you experienced? Any scary stories?

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