I’m sure everyone knows by now we’ve had another earthquake here in California. But I have an unusual question about them. This is the fourth one I’ve experienced while asleep and each time, I awoke BEFORE the room started shaking. Once would be a coincidence, but FOUR times? What’s going on here? And don’t anyone tell me I have psychic powers, because I don’t believe in such nonsense. There has to be a natural explanation for it. Just before the Northridge quake of '94, I awoke from a sound sleep, sat up in bed, and said, “Something’s going to happen.” Unfortunately, there were no witnesses. But does anyone have an explanation that does NOT involve ESP, precognition, premonition or any of that other bilge?

Yes. It happens to me and my family, too. I think what really wakes us up is the first initial shake, but it takes a moment for the momentum to build and for our brains to recognize what is happening.

There are gas shutoffs that you can buy that respond to the first “pre-wave” and shut the gas off just before the shaking really starts. I suspect that when we wake up it’s due to the same thing.


Like Melin said it’s probably the prewave (Which I have found to be smoother and not as jolting as subsequent waves), that knocks you out of sleep just in time for you to feel the ride. Oh and i’m glad that quake we had in California was basically in the high desert where no one lives. BTW: according to the nightly news, the world is below it’s average in 7.0 quakes this year…

‘The beginning calls for courage; the end demands care’

You guys are saying “pre-wave” but do you mean P-wave. The P-wave is the the "p"rimary wave, the first to arrive, followed by the S (shear) wave. The time difference between the P and S waves will tell how far away the earthquake occured. I will share one of my geology mnemonics: P waves are Push and Pull waves and move like a Porpoise, S waves are Sideways waves and move like a Snake.

Animals can feel that P-wave too.

jab1, I’d guess you have a capability that’s usually reserved for cats and dogs. I’m certainly not denigrating what you have undergone. It’s unique, but kind of creepy. Has this ever happened to you prior to any other unique phenomena?

Hope you won’t mind if I tag on an additional quake question here: I lived in Southern California for 5 years…left 11 years ago. Back then, seismologists were promising they’d come up with something that would predict quakes, but this one was yet another that passed without prediction. Do you suppose they’ll ever succeed? If they do, what in the world will people be able to do with the prediction if it is only 1 hour (or less) before a major quake?

“There will always be somebody who’s never read a book who’ll know twice what you know.” - D.Duchovny

Get to a safer place. Off of a bridge, away from large panes of glass windows, away from bookshelves, out of a store like Home Depot (every time I go in to Home Depot I pray that there won’t be an earthquake while I’m there!). Get the kids home from school, shut off the gas valve, secure the water heater, draw extra water in the bathtubs, etc. Make sure you know where the flashlights are, and take down that cherished piece of Royal Doulton from the mantel.

And close the toilet lid! The best argument in the “leave it up – put it down” argument is that you’ll never have to clean broken glass out of the toilet after an earthquake if you always leave the lid down. It’s a reason to automatically latch the dishwasher when not in use, too; I HAVE cleaned broken glass out of a dishwasher after an earthquake, it’s not a fun job.


I still think the best reason for leaving the toilet seat down is to avoid being roused from sleep at 3 a.m. by an angry female with a wet ass.

Nickrz, he said toilet lid not the seat.

I should hope no women sit down on a lid.

Yeah. I meant a woman who sat down and peed on the lid.

If we had an hour of warning before a quake? I would be outside and away from buildings, powerlines, etc. My Backyard is plenty big to get away from those things. Though the trama would be from seing my house crumble, etc. If I were at school, i’d try to get outside, since we dont have any classrooms that are on 2nd story floors (yet). Though, they’ve been retrofitting all the tall buildings on campus for earthquake safety.

‘The beginning calls for courage; the end demands care’

Mazey, I think a little personal history is on order. I’m not from California, I was born in Texas and lived there until I was 18. I didn’t move to L.A. until 1989. The first earthquake that awakened me was the small one in Altadena in '91. That was in the afternoon, but I was asleep at the time. Since then, I’ve awakened prior to the Landers-Big Bear event of '92, the Northridge event of '94 and again this most recent one. The explanations of p-waves that precede the more violent s-waves make sense, but no less than James Randi, on KPFK, gave the opinion that it was an atmospheric disturbance that travels ahead of the ground waves. (Said disturbance is, of course, caused by the earthquake.) He based this opinion on reports that some people are awakened just prior to hearing an explosion or feeling the concussion. And other people claim to be able to hear an earthquake before they feel it. But in answer to Mazey’s question, earthquakes are the only odd phenomena that give me warning.

I assume very-low-frequency sound waves would get to you fastest through the earth (and I haven’t heard of people hearing higher-frequency sound waves from earthquakes) rather than through the air, so was Randi referring to electrical/magnetic/electromagnetic waves or what?


This was several years back, but I seem to remember that Randi meant a change in air pressure. I have my doubts because a pressure wave (a concussion?) would have to travel over a mountain range and through or around buildings to get to me in downtown L.A. where I live. In one of his classic columns, Cecil refers to a subsonic sound generated by earthquakes. Maybe that’s what woke me up.

Cecil’s column is located at

Wish I’d seen that one sooner.

A bomb went off in the middle of the night in a popular nightclub maybe 15 years ago (maybe less) in Italy. The nightclub was a couple of hundred metres away from the place where I was staying, but in direct line of sight. I awoke suddenly, completely, and for no reason in the dead of night. The moment I came awake I was frightened out of my wits by a loud explosion that set the chandelier in the room rocking. For well over a decade I have wondered why I came awake so suddenly and so completely an instant before the bomb went off.

I am certainly not suggesting any crap like powers of premonition, but I find that my experience sounds quite similar to Jab1’s, so I provide my end of the story. Regrettably (??) I have only been in one earthquake and I was awake to begin with, so I can’t be of help there.


“For what is myth, but the deconstructive prose of a missing literary critic who lisps?”
–Harry Harrison

Abe’s experience mirrors my Northridge experience almost perfectly. And James Randi referred to an explosion in Chicago that awakened people moments before the concussion arrived. What was so weird about the Northridge quake was that I awakened a full minute before the room started moving. I had time to get out of bed, turn on the lights and walk around, wondering what was going on before the room (on the fourth floor) started moving and the lights went our shortly thereafter. It was the most violent of the four events I have described and the one that gave me the most warning. It was also the one whose epicenter was the closest. These things just can’t be coincidence.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana