Surviving the Great Whitehorse Earthquake of 2017

Surprisingly it was not the earthquake that woke me up on the morning of Monday, May 1. It was the stunning one-two punch of the intense, standing-on-frozen-Lego agony of being barefoot on cold gravel, coupled with the mind blowing realization that I was indeed standing stark naked in my driveway and this was not a dream.

I bolted, nimble and cat like, back into my porch and slammed the door behind me. Only then did I realize that my entire house was shaking and banging and we were having an earthquake. Thankfully I had not put the winter gear away yet and everything I needed was right inside the door.

I grabbed my van keys, winter jacket and a pair of snow-pants off the rack. With both hands full and no time to waste, I launched into a vigorous game of hacky sack with the rebellious one of my rubber boots (the good boot went right out the door, first kick) until I caught the offender with a clean strike that sent it halfway across the yard and well away from anything that would fall on me while I was putting it on.

Holding my clothes in front of my junk, I painfully hopscotched back across the gravel while simultaneously hitting the command start and unlocking the door, just like a ninja.

I opened the sliding door, tumbled inside and shut it behind me in one graceful move. So happy to be safe at last.

Problem was, as any Canadian knows, when you first start a cold vehicle the air that comes out of the vents is part liquid nitrogen and it feels like it will freeze you like Han Solo in a matter of minutes. Particularly if you are buck naked and were just in a toasty warm bed 30 seconds ago.

The cold seized my muscles and bent my spine. I grabbed the snow pants and, sticking my feet in, went to pull them up. They slid halfway up my thighs and then stuck there, snowboard/rapper style, and I realized they were my 10-year-old’s pants. The cold air stabbed through my back and I was sure this was the end.

Luckily my extensive survival training (still got the badge!!) from my swimming lessons at the Lion’s pool kicked in and saved me.

Grabbing my winter jacket and a dirty toque from under the front seat I rolled up onto the back bench seat and assumed the good old Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P.!!) and covered myself as best I could with my jacket.

Curled up in a ball on the back seat of my van I shivered ferociously and wondered if the quake had stopped and it was just me shaking the van.

Eventually the shivering stopped and I was able to sit up and realize the quake was over. I improvised a kilt from my jacket to cover what the little snow pants could not. I played one more round of frozen gravel hop scotch to get my boots and put them on, and hobbled by the little snow pants I had some how managed to get my feet all the way through, pigeon/gangster walked back into the house.

I kept the entire ensemble on, all the way back to my bed and under the covers.

After another short bout of intense shivering and some black belt level bed yoga, I was able to get my rubber boots off and extract one of my legs from my son’s snow pants… just in time for the second quake to hit.

More angry than scared now, I jumped out of bed and kick/stomp/jump/pulled the snow-pants off my leg. Throwing on my jacket I jammed my feet back into my rubber boots, grabbed some jeans off the shelf, and my cell phone and stomped my way, out of my house, down my driveway and hopped in my van.

I fired it up, pulled halfway down my drive so my house could not hit me and then sat there, naked from my down jacket to my rubber boots, and sent texts: to my ex-wife to make sure my boys and everyone at her place were okay, and to check on my folks.

Then I just sat there and felt the earth as it moved and then was still, moved and then was still, beneath me. I watched how it affected everything around me. There is definitely a reason that life changing and terrifying events are described as “earth shaking.” Nothing can be still and there can be no feeling of safety or security when the very earth is shaking.

The last earthquake I was in was in India in 2001. That one was a 7.7 and killed 20,000 people, but it was centred hundreds of kilometres from where we were.

The May 1st quake was a 6.2, but was centered closer to the surface and way closer to where I was streaking in my driveway. So this one today felt way stronger and combined with the memory of the last one, was way scarier. Growing up here in Whitehorse I can remember being in three or four other earthquakes, but today’s was definitely the most violent one I have experienced.

We were very lucky today.

A couple small aftershocks later I was finally able to relax a bit, climb in the backseat and marvel at how easily jeans go on if they are the right size.

As I climbed out of the van, finally fully clothed, one of my neighbours came out his front door and hopped in his car. Unable to hold it in, I burst out laughing as I stood looking at the 20 or so houses that can see my driveway, and contemplated the show I had just put on. Much too funny to keep to myself, I decided to write it down and give all my twisted friends a chance to laugh along with me.

I hope you enjoyed the story and got a laugh out of it at the end of this stressful day.

The seismic scientists say this may have been the whole event, but it also may have just been the first act in a bigger show. Either way, I slept with my boots on that night. I don’t think my feet could take that again.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top