Quake hits close to home

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, March 12, 2011
— When Cedric and Jean Hathway read their son’s Facebook page, they were shaking and fearing the worst.

“We are safe … We are protected in Tokyo Bay, so tsunamis shouldn’t bother us,” Jack Hathway wrote. “Pray for the rest of Japan. The tsunamis are predicted to be over 190 meters. We have had continuous earthquakes of at least two per hour for the last eight hours.”

The Hathways of Janesville were relieved that their son and his family were not injured or killed in Japan’s 8.9 magnitude offshore earthquake. The quake unleashed a 23-foot tsunami and was the beginning of more than 120 aftershocks, many of them magnitude 5.0 or higher.

Early today, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck the central, mountainous part of Japan—far from the original quake’s epicenter. It was not immediately clear if that temblor was related to the others.

The Hathways were among many families in the Janesville area awaiting news from loved ones in Japan to learn if they were safe.

Gladys Stearns of Janesville said her son, James, was flying through Tokyo on his way from South Korea to Hawaii. She said James is in the Army Reserves and is based in Hawaii.

Gladys also checked her son’s Facebook page to learn if he was safe.

“Just to let everyone know, I am OK,” James wrote. “We were coming into Tokyo when the quake hit. Got diverted to another city. Spending the night in Japan.

“May get out of here sometime Saturday but it looks like all flights are pretty much booked. OMG. This place is an absolute madhouse. Safe and sound near the Kansai Airport, Japan,” James wrote.

Gladys said her son later posted on Facebook that he was hoping to leave Japan sooner.

“I’m just praying that he gets back OK, and everybody else is safe,” Gladys said. “I know it’s a terrible disaster.”

Geraldine Idzerda, sister of Gazette reporter Catherine W. Idzerda, teaches second grade at Betchtel Elementary School on U.S. Marine Camp McTureous near the city of Okinawa in Okinawa Prefecture.

The school and city are about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo.

“They issued tsunami warnings for our area,” Geraldine said. “They warned us to stay away from the beaches—duh.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday in Okinawa, Geraldine and her husband, Robert Massey, were sitting on the balcony of their sixth-floor apartment that overlooks the Kinbu Bay and the Philippine Sea.

“You could see the water pull way out. There were big rocks exposed that you wouldn’t normally see. It was amazing,” Geraldine said.

Wasn’t she nervous?

No, the tsunami warning for her area was for a meter-high wave. The couple lives about 100 feet from the beach. Their apartment building is designed with an open parking area at its base.

A narrow line of islands about four miles out in the bay also serve as a breaker for waves.

Neither Idzerda nor Massey felt the earthquake.

Juk Bhattacharyya, a UW-Whitewater associate professor of geology, said the university’s seismograph registered the earthquake and its aftershocks. The earthquake specialist said the quake was among the biggest she has ever seen.

“This is big, because 8.9 is huge,” Bhattacharyya said. “This is one of the biggest earthquakes ever. It’s an incredible amount of energy that’s being released.”

By Friday afternoon, Jean had talked to her son, who owns a private school in Japan and teaches English. The two also had chatted online.

Jack was stranded at work because the trains had shut down.

“Just before we signed off, he said, ‘It’s shaking again,’” Jean said.

The Hathways are thankful that their family members are OK. Many friends and family have called Jean to ask about Jack.

“It isn’t what I expected to be doing today,” Jean said.

Last updated: 4:46 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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