Monday, March 28, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 18

Update: Word of mouth says a tsunami didn't actually come after all, and the advisory has been called off. That's good.

At 7:30 this morning, Miyagi was hit with another large M6.5 aftershock, with the epicenter appearing to be pretty close to the original quake more than a couple weeks ago. Most of the prefecture seems to have been hit with intensity 4 shaking, nothing particularly strange from whats been going on over the last couple weeks, but one city in particular was hit with a weak intensity 5.

This is the largest we've had in awhile, and apparently it has generated up to estimated 50cm tsunami for the immediate area. I've not seen the tsunami warning graphic on TV since the days following the original quake. Fortunately it appears to be just a tsunami watch rather than a warning, and actually the graphic just disappeared right now. So I probably would have missed it if I hadn't turned on the TV, especially since it didn't really even make it out this way.

Anyways, we're still getting aftershocks.

Edit: Graphic came back. I guess the tsunami watch for the Sendai area is still on for awhile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 17

This whole thing is really turning into a roller coaster ride of fear and worry fueled by rumors and truth.

The radioactive spinach and milk scare from the other day has shut down shipments of a number of products, mostly vegetables from the affected area. I feel so bad for those farmers. On the news they were showing how they had to keep milking the cows to keep them conditioned, but they're forced to literally pour all the milk down the drain since it's worthless. I also saw a report on how a box of some vegetables used to sell for 2500 yen (approx $30), but were being offered for 1 yen (1 cent) instead. Then there was the radioactive water scare for which the government suggested infants not drink the tap water, which has since been released as the levels have lowered again.

I've also heard reports about a couple workers hospitalized from radiation exposure at the Fukushima plant, and that TEPCO hadn't informed the workers of the radiation levels found in the water in time about it. On top of that, there were readings of radiation levels in the seawater next to the plant at 1,850 times the normal level. Radiation from Fukushima has also been found around the world in California as well as in Sweden and Germany. Perhaps the most startling of all has been a report of radiation levels inside one of the reactors found to be at 10 million times above normal. Subsequently, the International and Nuclear Radiological Even Scale for this disaster has been raised to a level 6 serious accident, surpassing Three Mile Island. Fortunately, even at a level 6 though, we're still not talking anything close to what happened in Chernobyl.

But then when I woke up this morning I read a BBC article about how the response to all these radiation readings are somewhat over reactions and a mistake. It suggests this partially because the 'acceptable' limits are set a bit too low. Basically these limits are sort of 'as low as possible' rather than 'as high as reasonably safe'. Furthermore, while I was looking up all these articles to support the stuff I've been hearing on the news over the weekend, I've learned now that the report about radiation levels inside a reactor being 10 million times above normal was actually a mistake. The radiation levels found in the sea and other areas are also supposedly not much of a health risk at all.

So you really don't know what to believe. One day the reports pile on of radiation being found here and there, and the next day you hear about how it's not dangerous at all, with experts on news programs left and right explaining what different levels of radiation mean as far as their affects on the environment and people.

And at the same time this is all happening, we're continuing with the rolling planned outages (now split into 25 groups), which are rumored to continue through winter or even until next summer. As a result the trains are running with the lights and heat off, and many businesses and stores are operating similarly with lights and heat cut. Plus, we're still getting strong aftershocks every day. In fact we had several today, including an emergency alert on TV for an earthquake in Ibaragi, but nothing major came out of it, with only a 4 or so land, and an M5 in the sea.

Who knows what will happen next. I'll just have to be as prepared as I can for it, and get on with life as normal the best I can. One nice bit of good news though, is that my company has been awesome supporting us through this whole endeavor. After putting our safety as a priority, advising and helping us to temporarily separate from the area a couple weekends ago as a precaution, we have subsequently managed to setup and move our data to servers in the other US (HQ) and UK locations in the period of a week. This takes a huge load off my shoulders, as I now don't have to freak out when the power goes out anymore. Proto Labs, you guys rock. Thank you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 15

Yesterday evening right after the power came back on I got hit with a nasty stomach bug that, well I'll leave the finer details out, but it was not fun. Apparently it's a bug that's spreading around Japan, and is contagious for up to 5 days? My girlfriend had the same thing last weekend, so I probably got it from her. Fortunately it calmed down by this afternoon, but yeesh, not fun. At least I didn't have to deal with a power outage during the whole endeavor.

Anyways, last night's outage was only 1 1/2 hours rather than the full 3, so that was nice. Today's outage was also canceled, as are the outages planned for the weekend. They've been blasting commercials on TV with the same several AC commercials (aka: public service announcements) about saving energy and such, so maybe that's working? They're also going to be breaking the 5 groups down further into 5 groups each, making for 25 groups total.

Also, there was a radiation scare in the public water found the other day, which not surprisingly caused most stores to sell out on water. From what I saw on the news today though, the levels have already gone down again so it's supposedly safe (not that it was necessarily dangerous in the first place though). If I recall correctly, this happened shortly after it rained, so I wonder if we'll be getting scares like this from time to time when it rains...

We're still having strong aftershocks too, at about one M6+ a day. I'm really looking forward to the day when we don't have a major earthquake/aftershock for a whole 24 hours... At least I'm fortunate to not get anything too strong this way, but you also think it may just be a matter of time. Well, no sense worrying sick about it though. I'll be earthquake-proofing my apartment where I can, but other than that I'm just going to carry on with life as usual.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 13

First and foremost, power has been restored to all 6 reactors in Fukushima. It still goes to see if the pumps aren't damaged and still function, but this is a big step in getting through this disaster.

Well, I'm back in Kanagawa now. I took the Shinkansen home last night after hanging out in Osaka for another day. I made sure to stop by the Umeda Sky Building before I came home too. This building northeast of Osaka station is a unique twin tower where the top is connected and the top 2 floors are an observation deck, with the roof being an open air observation deck. At night there are florescent pebbles and such in the floor on the roof, so they create this really cool space field atmosphere at night. In fact, the inner wall on the observation floor has these panels with brief explanations on tall buildings through the ages, eventually expanding into space. It's a very cool place I visited 3 years ago and couldn't resist going back.

Anyways, Osaka and central Japan really aren't feeling much effect from the disaster. When I got back to Japan, I found convenience stores still low on stock, although I hear supply isn't the issue, but rather demand from people stock piling. Worse than that though, was the trains still being delayed and running at a reduced, limited schedule. The line for the Nanbu line backed up all the way from the platform to the ticket gate. Plus, the Odakyu line cut all the lights and heat inside the train, so it really sets this eerie and chilly mood. I hear more power plants were affected by the earthquake than they thought, so rumor has it this might even continue till winter. I really hope they can do something quickly, otherwise I might have to purchase a UPS to keep my internet running at home least.

There have been a lot of opinions I've heard about what to do with the current energy problem, but coincidentally I just saw a huge presentation on the difficulties with meeting current energy demands. I'll try and sum it up here as best I remember.

First the different types of power used in Japan (and throughout the world)...

Coal: Dirty, cheap
Nuclear: Clean, cheap, radiation risk, recyclable fuel
Hydro: Clean, expensive
Wind: Clean, expensive

The reason Nuclear power is used so much despite the risk of radiation is because it is clean (less emissions than hydro I believe), efficient and cheap (good for high population density), and to top it off, the fuel can be recycled. Modern nuclear plants are extremely safe, and in fact the reactor in Fukushima isn't using a newer method of cooling using convection which doesn't rely on pumps. If it did, we probably wouldn't be facing many of the issues we are now.

So that's the reason Nuclear power is widely used. Now how can we quickly resolve the current power shortage? One idea is to channel power in from Tohoku (NE Japan), but they're devastated from the earthquake and tsunami already. We could go even farther and get some from Hokkaido, but there's a physical limit the power can reach, allowing only 60KW to make it our way. Nearby central Japan has been barely effected by this disaster, but their power alternates at 50Hz, whereas Eastern Japan's power is 60Hz. This is because electricity in Eastern Japan had its origins from Germany, whereas Western Japanese electricity came from American. This is a problem left over from the 1800's, and rather frustrating. Power can be converted, but the cost of building a conversion station is about the same as a new power plant. There are actually 3 in existence already, but they max out at 100KW since they're not exactly efficient either.

To long, didn't read? We can't channel power from the surrounding area because of physical limits, and it would be too expensive to increase our ability to do so. Which means we have to repair/build more power stations as quickly as possible (with repair probably being the fastest solution). I sure hope they can do something about it soon.

The strong earthquakes and aftershocks are still continuing at the rate of one a day. I was told a few hit while I was out of the area, and sure enough I've already felt a couple since coming back yesterday. I know I've mentioned it before, but my body really is out of whack from this whole experience. I can 'feel' it shaking by just thinking about it. It kind of reminds me of the sensation you get from riding a boat, except all the time, and I'm imagining it. Crazy.

Regardless, Japan is really stepping up to the occasion, determined to push through this horrible disaster. The national high school baseball tournament (I think) was not canceled after all, but rather they're playing exactly because we're facing this disaster. People are doing everything they can to get back to normal. It will take time, but I'm sure we'll get through it. I'm crossing my fingers we don't have an excruciatingly hot summer this year again though, cause I was suffering enough even with the AC.

Well I'll continue to update this blog as events unfold, but at less frequent rate. So far the situation seems to have calmed more and hopefully will be under control soon. I should really focus on getting my life and my job back to normal as well.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 11

As I haven't been watching too much news while hanging out with friends in Osaka, I haven't been updating this as much either. For the most part though, it seems tensions have finally started to calm down. Despite the fact that there appear to be some radiation showing up in food and water, they have fortunately restored power to reactors 1, 2, 5, & 6; and they should be able to restore power to 3 and 4 (the reactors emitting the most radiation at this point) perhaps on Tuesday. Assuming the pumps and other systems are still functional, this should be a major step in getting the situation under control. Then it's clean up time to figure out how much radiation has contaminated the surrounding area. From a number of reports I've heard so far though, seems the radiation levels are low enough that there should be little to no affect on people, even if 'contaminated' water or w/e is ingested. I feel like I might end up buying water and tea for awhile though, but we'll see.

Also, I heard an elderly woman and her grandchild were rescued yesterday... 9 days after the earthquake and tsunami. Unbelievable. Thank goodness they made it out ok. I believe the story as I heard it on TV was that they were trapped in the kitchen, and therefore had access to food in the fridge.

Anyways, meeting with friends again today, and I may head back to Kanagawa a day early tomorrow. The situation seems to be calming down (other than still having strong aftershocks), and it would be nice to have an extra day to relax at home.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 10

12:00 pm JST (10:00 pm CST)
Shinkansen!! Man the bullet train is fast. This is my first time riding shinkansen btw, and it's pretty awesome. Takes me only 50 min to get from Nagoya to Osaka, which I believe took almost 3 hours when I went via normal train 3 years ago. I'm not even on the fastest one either.

Alright, some good news, I heard radiation levels in fukushima have gone back to normal levels, but haven't read an article on it yet though. Sounds promising though. :D

Ok, gotta search for a hotel while I have some free time,here.

10:00 am JST (8:00 pm CST)
Time to check out and head off to Osaka.

8:50 am JST (6:50 pm CST)
Morning. The news is saying they've been remotely pumping water all night, pumping some 2400 tons of water over 12 or 14 hours onto reactor 3. Also, reactors 1 and 2 have power restored. This is good to hear.

Also, here's a little bit of perspective on radiation levels for reference.

Ok, time for breakfast.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 9

On Friday, my company requested that the staff leave the Kanto area, not because we are worried of imminent nuclear fallout, but rather as a precaution for any situation that may perhaps grow out of control and be too late to leave. Also, Monday is a holiday, so we already had a 3 day weekend. We don't have work anyways, so why not send people to a 'safer' distance to watch as the situation evolves in Fukushima. Anyways, as a result, I am currently visiting friends as I do a little tour of central Japan.

11:00 pm JST (9:00 am CST)
First off, an update on what I know so far. Aside from another earthquake in Ibaragi this evening, they've been spraying more water onto reactor 3, and I hear they have managed to get the dousing to run completely automatic for 7 hours. Furthermore, I believe they have also restored/soon will restore power to reactors 1 and 2, so cooling from the pumps within can get their situation under control. We're still not out of the woods, but this sounds like good progress.

I have also heard rumor though, that milk and spinach (why not other veggies...?) may have been contaminated (cows eating radiated grassing) and are therefore out of stock. We went to the supermarket in Nagoya today though, and... there was plenty of milk there. Not sure what the deal is with that, but I guess I'll hold off on milk and spinach when I get home until I can find out more information? That's about the only thing you really can do. It's so hard to tell what rumors are fact and other just sensationalist exaggeration, but you have no choice but to believe the worst of the stories to be true unless proven otherwise, and act accordingly till then.

Actually I have no idea what news stories are running in the US or other countries, since I'm watching all my news in Japanese, but remember that speech given by the emperor a few days ago? Apparently in Indonesia the news reported this as the Emperor saying goodbye to the doomed country. Talk about exaggeration. There are plenty of different stories out there about whether it's really dangerous or not. If you want some comfort, this is a really good one. I want to, and for the most part believe it to be true, but I'd still continue to take precaution where I can. And frankly we would all be more than happy to return from this 5 day extended weekend trip, laughing at the silly idea of "fleeing the Kanto area."

But for now, since I'm out here and have 2 more additional vacation days... I'm going to enjoy it! This afternoon I went to the Toyota Automobile Museum, or TAM, which coincidentally is Khing's first name. Plus he also used to be a mechanic, so it was almost like I went to his museum, haha.

I took a ton of pictures I'll upload at a later time, but my favorite was this guy:

That is so the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!!!

Ok, not exactly the same. But the lights in the front and on the side? The general long body and shape of the fenders. The large wheels, with a spare tire on the drivers side? So far I can't find any info on what specific vehicle the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car was created from/modeled after, and actually it seems to have been designed for the movie, but man it sure looks similar to that Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost at the museum. This article seems to agree with me.

Now if only I had a cap, some navigator goggles and leather gloves I would've hopped right in and flown out the building.

Well tomorrow I'm heading to Osaka to (FINALLY) hang out with my friend Alex. More updates as they come in!

12:00 pm JST (10:00 pm CST)


A gas station we stopped at, waiting 20 minutes for gas, rationed at 20 liters per person.

Made it! The Crown Hotel in Nagoya... at 2:30 in the morning.

Oh yea, Japanese hotel's got an onsen, so I get my own kimono garb.

Men. I was extra careful to make sure I went to the right one.

This was a nicer breakfast than I was expecting, all you can eat to boot.

Thomas' car that got us here. Thank you so much Thomas for waiting and driving me here.

Khing's place in Nagoya.

The name plate at Khing's house. Says 'Tam' and 'Asamura'.

11:45 am JST (9:45 pm CST)
Hey Khing, you've got a nice place here in Nagoya. Just a liiitle bit more urban than little ol Shake. Well I'm at my coworker's place in Nagoya today. I'll do a little sightseeing while I'm here, and continue westward to Osaka tonight or tomorrow probably.

10:30 am JST (8:30 pm CST)
What a week it has been. Who would've guessed I would be on the subway in Nagoya after leaving the Tokyo area as a precaution to an involving nuclear situation in Fukushima.

Anyways, woke up at 9 and got some unexpectedly good breakfast. I took a picture I'll post later when I get an internet connection. Now I'm on the subway, heading toward Fujigaoka to meet up with my coworker, Khing-san. He offered to show me around Nagoya, so I took him up on the offer. I guess I get to go into tourist mode now? Might as well take advantage of and enjoy the situation as I can.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 8

4:45 am JST (2:45 pm CST)

I <3 Onsen.

Caught up on some emails and other things from my phone (takes longer but can be done), and took a dip in the onsen here. Man that rejuvenates you. I took pictures too (no, not of me naked in a hot spring) but I'll post those later. For now, good night.

2:45 am JST (12:45 pm CST)
We're here! Just checked in to the hotel. Sounds like they have an onsen. I could use a little relaxation, I think I'll check it out before going to bed.

Turned on the news, seems they've been using fire trucks to spray water on the reactors in fukushima. I hear they sprayed 42 tons of water over 7 rotations. That's a lot of water.

Oh also no internet here, so I'm blogging from my phone. :D

12:00 am JST (10:00 am CST)
Stopped at another service area. Their convenience store was fully stocked, and they had a full rack of snack breads. I think thats the first I've seen of those guys in a week!

10:30 pm JST (8:30 am CST)
We stopped at a service area to get some dinner. There was a line of cars waiting for gas, but we also needed some, so we lined up too. Fortunately we didn't wait long, maybe 20 min, but we were limited to 20 liters. That was enough for what we needed though.

9:30 pm JST (7:30 am CST) -
Well, earlier today in response to announcements from the us embassy, and because of the upcoming 3 day weekend, my company requested that we leave the kanto area, and head to central or western Japan. We will also be closed on Tues and Wed, planning to return on Thursday. This is merely a precaution, and doesn't mean we expect there to be nuclear fallout, but for the time being we'll assess the situation as it evolves from a greater distance.
I'm heading to the Osaka and Nagoya area, where I have some friends living. I guess I get to have a little vacation for the next several days. Leaving shortly with my boss to drive to Nagoya for tonight. Tomorrow I may hang out with a coworker who is from Nagoya.

3:15 pm JST (1:15 am CST) -
Seems the confirmed death toll has reached 6500, exceeding the previous worst post-war disaster, the Kobe earthquake back in 1995.

2:46 pm JST (12:46 am CST) -
Exactly one week since the earthquake hit...

11:10 am JST (9:10 pm CST) -
By the way, we've had a few small aftershocks this morning, not sure where though since I was offline at home. I should look into getting a UPS for my modem and router or something. I should be able to use my phone as a router though.

Right now Edano is giving a presentation on the state of things in Fukushima. The atmosphere appears to be more clam that it has been, but I haven't been listening closely. I've got this crazy thing called work that I need to focus on before we lose power again at 2 pm. Also quickly charging everything I can until then.

10:40 am JST (8:45 pm CST) -
Also, from what I can tell radiation levels are lowering in Fukushima (slowly for the time being), and they have/are soon to be restoring power to reactor 2 via a 1 km long extension cord. Finally some comforting news.

10:35 am JST (8:40 pm CST) -
Everything's back online. I hear we're going to be having another 3 hour outage between 1:50 pm and 5:30 pm (11:50 pm and 3:30 am CST). Two outages a day two days in a row??? Ugghhh... Is this gonna continue into the weekend? I've gotta set up some more automation to our 'low power' mode.

9:40 am
Power's back! Our servers should be coming online shortly. I need to run over and turn the AC on in the server room though.

8:00 am
Yup, there goes the battery for my servers. Sorry guys, I'll boot you back up soon. :(

In other news, I haven't been watching the news cause I have no power. I'm trying to get information on my phone now. Last night it was nice to unwind at ishikawa's place though. Just a little stress involved in this whole situation.

7:10 am
Shoot, the power went out 20 min before I woke up, which means I don't have internet, and can't remotely shut our servers down. Ugh.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 7

Google has set up a crisis response page where you can gather lots of information on the earthquake, as well as make donations to Red Cross, Unicef, Save the Children and others. I was about 300 miles away from the main quake, and am 200 miles away from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. It shook hard here (M5), but we are safe and sound, and fortunate to be practically free from damage. The people in up north need all the help they can get though. I'm reporting information as I hear it, for friends and family to keep tabs on my situation.

9:00 pm JST (7:00 am CST) -
Alright, everything is back online and running. I noticed I've just passed 4000 hits on my blog (2800 since Friday). Thanks everyone, really. It's kinda nice to know people are following my story, especially when I'm home alone at night. Your interest/support is felt and greatly appreciated.

Sounds like Ishikawa-san went to open his restaurant, and Khing-san is gonna head that way. I think I'll join them.

8:15 pm JST (6:15 am CST) -
POWER! Also tested the wakeup on lan on our servers, worked like a charm. Now to just ensure everything is back online and I'm outta here.

7:55 pm JST (5:55 am CST) -
They just announced on the news they've started spraying water onto reactor 3 in Fukushima via firetruck on the ground. Crossing my fingers that it has effect.

Still waiting for the power to return, listening to NHK. I tried to see if I could keep a couple more systems online for longer, but it seems that drained too much battery and I might not be able to keep the servers up through the whole blackout. Dang. Also I hear we're going to have another blackout tomorrow morning from 6:30. At least it will be lighter out then.

7:00 pm JST (5:00 am CST) -
Waiting for the power to come back on, watching/listening to NHK.

5:40 pm JST (3:40 am CST) -
Second blackout of the day. This time it'll be getting darker, lasting until 8:40 pm. Can't say I'm looking forward to it. I am able to reboot the servers remotely though, so I could go home except that the hard drive array (which uses the most power) requires a physical switch to be pushed. Maybe I'll hang around for an hour, turn it on, and go home.

Oy vey.

1:45 pm JST (11:45 pm CST) -
Quick update. We got power back almost exactly 3 hours later. It's nice to at least have that constant so we can appropriately prepare for these. During the blackout we sat in the lunch room watching a feed from NHK. The situation with the reactors is sounding kind of... do-or-die so to say. If they don't manage to get water on the reactors soon (like today), the situation could get out of control. They dumped some 75 tons of sea water via helicopter earlier this morning, but said there are no plans to attempt that again today. Instead they are attempting to spray water on them from the ground via firetruck, which should be happening right about now.

I hear the prime minister also had a phone conference with Obama about what to do with this situation. I believe some nuclear experts from the US will be joining us to help assess the situation. Please come help soon.

They confirmed death and destruction has also been rising. We're at over 5000 dead, and 11,000 missing. An estimated 7,500 buildings have been completely annihilated as well. Over 450,000 are still in shelter, and food and supplies are running out at the shelters. It's not that we don't have food and supplies, but rather we cannot get it to these shelters because of inaccessible roads and collapsed bridges.

The outage we just had supposedly affected approximately 6 million homes in the area. Furthermore we're scheduled to have another one between 4:50 and 8:30 pm tonight. Not looking forward to an outage at night. Sounds like we're going to be the first area that has an outage twice a day.

Anyways, all the news about this disaster, especially the situation with the nuclear plants in Fukushima really gets to you after awhile. But I have to at least keep an eye on whats going on since the situation up there has a change of escalating out of control.

Ok, I need to get some work done while we still have power. I'll update more later when I'm able.

9:54 am JST (7:50 pm CST) -


Lost power at 9:50, so we should get it back at 12:50. Third time must be the charm, cause I got got our servers into 'power saving mode' in 4 minutes flat, and all our service unavailable pages are working like a charm righ tnow.

The news on TV is continuing to show live footage from Fukushima of the helicopters dumping water on reactor 3. I hope it has affect.

9:47 am JST (7:47 pm CST) -
Waiting for the blackout. They just started dumping water on top of reactor 3 from helicopters. Not sure how effective it will be, but it's somewhat comforting to see they're working hard on the issue.

9:25 am JST (7:25 am CST) -
Preparing for a possible blackout. I just heard Mizuho Ginko's ATMs are not unable to withdraw money. Glad I took a bunch out in advance. I hope the fix it before 2 weeks though, cause I may need to send money to the US to pay off my loans.

8:30 am JST (6:30 pm CST) -
Oh boy, they were talking about it on the news, and I just found an article in English. They have raised the nuclear accident level to level 6, whereas last I heard it was at 4. This scale is a maximum of 7 (Chernobyl being 7). I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the news today to keep on top of the situation.

8:00 am JST (6:00 pm CST) -
They're still frantically working on controlling the situation in Fukushima. Even though the evacuation radius is 20-30km, it seems the US is urging US citizens to evacuate beyond 80km. I live 300km away (approx 190 mi), so I'm well outside the evacuation zone. Last night I also read an amazing story about the 50 plant workers who volunteered to remain at the plant to get the situation under control. Apparently the country has raised the legal limit of radiation exposure so they can work longer getting the situation under control. My thoughts and prayers go with those 50 brave men as they battle to protect their country from a major nuclear disaster.

Turning on the news, I hear they're working on setting up a new power source to provide electricity for the pumps, but in the mean time they may be using basically firetrucks to help inject water into/onto the reactors.

Also, I was shocked to see the USD/JPY rate at a low of 78. I thought the yen would begin to plummet (i.e. that number goes up), but apparently the USD is dropping. Furthermore, it dropped to an astounding 76.25 last night. While this is good for me when sending money to the US (to pay off my loans!), where 200,000 yen gets me $2560 at 78 USD/JPY, as opposed to $2440 at 82 USD/JPY before the quake; this very bad for a country with heavy exports, like Japan.

Well I need to get to work. We may be having a blackout this morning, so I need to be ready. Also, we actually have a new employee starting today too. As scary as this situation has been (and still is) we're doing our best to continue on, not losing to the disaster.

Day 7, here we go.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 6

Google has set up a crisis response page where you can gather lots of information on the earthquake, as well as make donations to Red Cross, Unicef, Save the Children and others. I was about 300 miles away from the main quake, and am 200 miles away from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. It shook hard here (M5), but we are safe and sound, and fortunate to be practically free from damage. The people in up north need all the help they can get though. I'm reporting information as I hear it, for friends and family to keep tabs on my situation.

12:50 am JST (10:50 am CST) -
There have been variety shows airing on TV again today. It was really refreshing to watch something entertaining again. I needed that. Well I'm overdue for getting some sleep. We may lose power around 9:30 next morning, so I need to be ready for that.

10:50 pm JST (8:50 am CST) -
Just had another earthquake M5.3 in the southern part of Ibaragi, but only felt a 3 by the time it got out to Ebina. It shook for a pretty descent time though. My body is so completely out of wack from all these earthquakes and aftershocks. It's so hyper sensitive to any sort of movement, that just bouncing my leg throws me off balance a bit and I can't tell if it's me or the ground shaking. Sitting here on the floor at home for some reason is even worse, and just thinking about shaking throws me off and I feel like it's shaking a bit. Maybe I've lost all trust in the stability of the earth below me, or maybe I just need sleep... maybe a little bit of both.

9:55 pm JST (7:55 am CST) -
Home now. Seeing as though we had 3 lost hours during the day, I stayed a bit later to catch up on a few things. Since all our machinery needs power to run too, we still had someone running them down stairs making up time, so I helped out flipping a few blocks before coming home. I sure hope our working through these outages and still making parts on time makes an impression on our customers! I wonder if these 3 hour blackouts are really gonna continue to be a daily occurrence though. They can be pretty draining. That said, I've got it easy compared to what they're going through up in northern Japan, something I'm trying not to forget.

Anyways, a day in review. Seems like the nuclear plants are safe for the time being, but they're still working hard to get them under control. I woke up to an explosion heard from reactor 2, and a fire on reactor 4, with this picture on TV.

How about that, reactor 4's outer concrete wall was completely burnt and destroyed by a fire. Everything inside there is safe and contained though, for the moment. I've also heard they had to evacuate the plant temporarily because of rising radiation levels. Similarly, they had planned to start airlifting and dumping sea water on one of the reactors, but called it off because of higher radiation levels. At the end of the day though, I haven't heard any alarming news, so I assume things are ok for now. Perhaps the wind blowing SE into the Pacific helped. Anyways, I just saw this picture of the 4 reactors on TV. Yikes.

And finally a little bit of humor - looking for the above pictures, I stumbled upon this image here.

This is a parody on the Dynasty Warriors series. This is Edano Nero, a chief government spokesman who has been making many different announcements concerning the events that have been unfolding over the last several days. The title says Edano Musou (a play on Sangoku Musou), and the subtitle says, "Turning interviews into tableware". Yea I have no idea what that's about, but pretty sure I read it correctly.

7:45 pm JST (5:45 am CST) -
The emperor just gave a speech. Here's an English article on it. Apparently this is a very rare appearance. If you aren't aware, the emperor in Japan has a very unique existence. He is similar to the Queen in England, but only a symbol with no power. After WWII the emperor was left around, basically to keep Japanese society as a whole intact at the time, as the emperor was the very top of Japanese society at the time. Now he is mostly symbolic, and remains a unique part of Japanese culture. He is also a central figure to extreme right wing conservatives who want to expel foreigners (like me) out of the country, but that's another story. To most people he's a cultural symbol, and they don't necessarily feel one way or the other about him. His existence is incredibly fascinating to me, like a left over symbolic figure from history books.

5:10 pm JST (3:10 am CST) -
I just found a very impressive time lapse video of these earthquakes we've been having. You may think that all the earthquakes in the same area before the huge quake hit were cause for alarm, but remember that earthquakes are a very common occurrence here. But who knows, they did seem fairly strong and clustered.

This ends on the 14th, and doesn't include the earthquakes in Tokyo and Shizuoka. I'm not sure how many were counted in this video either, but we've had over 200 aftershocks of M5 or higher.

4:00 pm JST (2:00 am CST) -
Oh yea, going through this the second time was a lot easier. We were able to get back to 100% online within 10 min.

3:40 pm JST (1:40 am CST) -
Power's back!

3:30 pm JST (1:30 am CST) -
We're more than 2 and a half hours into the power outage, and should be getting power back shortly. The UPS is showing over an hour of battery left yet, so it seems I managed to keep at least the website up 100% of the time this round. Others in the office have been doing what they can that doesn't require power. I did a little cleaning in the server room myself.

Here's some pictures of us working through the blackout...

1:50 pm JST (11:50 pm CST) -
Well I've done what I can to keep everything here running as long as possible. Now all we can do is wait for the blackout to pass. Maybe I should bring some playing cards or something with me to work tomorrow.

1:00 pm JST (11:00 pm CST) -


Just lost power, which will more than likely last for 3 hours. I guess in some sense I'm happy they're cutting power like they said they would, rather than confuse us by saying they may, may not, or actually maybe we really will after all, cancelling in the end, and finally only enacting the blackout for a small portion. Well, today we're losing power during the daytime, so it's still light out (and warmer), so I'm happy for that.

By the way, there have been a couple earthquakes in the last hour. Both were off the coast of Ibaragi and Chiba. The first we didn't feel in our area, but the second rocked for a bit. Everything's just fine here, just have to wait out the blackout now. After yesterday's experience, I should be able to keep the power up for 3+ hours now.

Oh and, booming success heating up my lunch before the blackout. Just finished eating when the power went out.

12:15 pm JST (10:15 pm CST) -
Seeing as though we may lose power in a bit here, I'm going to go heat up my lunch while I still can.

12:00 pm JST (10:00 pm CST) -
Oh yea, they just showed the wind patters on a weather report. It's all blowing southwest into the pacific ocean, never to be seen again. That provides some comfort. Unfortunately its snowing in the hard hit areas though. I hope everyone is safe and staying warm.

11:50 am JST (9:50 pm CST) -
No big deal here, but I noticed the zoomed in video they show of the power plant in Fukushima has some warping going on, more than likely a result of looking through a tremendous amount of air over the incredible distance that footage is covering. It does however, look very similar to the warping you get around something that's really hot. So it gives the whole thing a really eerie visual effect.

Also, we didn't have blackouts this morning, but we could be facing one at 12:20 until 4pm. At least this time it won't be dark outside, and I won't have to stick around after 7pm to wait to ensure everything comes back online.

11:20 am JST (9:20 pm CST) -
They're making an announcement on the situation in Fukushima. It sounds like the radiation levels are starting to decline again. Whew.

11:07 am JST (9:07 pm CST) -
Woah, they just showed a picture of reactor 4 in Fukushima from yesterday. The outer concrete housing of the building appears completely burnt and charred from the fire. I know the inner portion of the reactor is very well protected, and quite frankly the fact that they all survived an M9.0 quake and ensuing tsunami of unprecedented scale without leakage is amazing in itself, but seeing the building of a nuclear reactor burnt does make one a bit unsettled.

11:00 am JST (9:00 pm CST) -
Just heard a report Mizuho bank (my bank) is having issues with money transfers/deposits, but withdrawals appear to be working fine. Glad I withdrew a bunch of cash the day of the quake just in case!

10:45 am JST (8:45 pm CST) -
White smoke was spotted from reactor 3 (they think) in Fukushima a little before 10. The area is too dangerous to go outside though, so they're unable to confirm the situation. Currently they're showing super zoomed in video from a helicopter a good distance away.

Also, Yahoo is amazing. They've put together a graph and map of the areas anticipated to be affected by blackouts. These resources will help me tremendously.

10:10 am JST (8:10 pm CST) -
At work now. Here's a slightly disturbing story. The Atsugi base is rather close to where I live (like less than 10 miles away). No cause for panic though, even if there were trace amounts of radiation in the area, it is in no way detrimental to my health. Everyone is just taking extra precaution with the situation.

In other news, I hear they've implemented a no-fly zone with no height restriction in the 30km radius around the plant in Fukushima. They're doing it as a precaution to prevent any radiation from spreading. This is supposedly the first time such no-fly zone has been implemented in Japan I guess?

8:25 am JST (6:25 pm CST) -
Just after I woke up and read an article on my phone about how the radiation levels were declining, I hear on the news there was a flame spotted at reactor 4 sometime last night/this morning. They don't know what caused it, nor can they get close to the scene as it is too dangerous. Looks like I'll have to keep an ear out for whats going on there again today.

Also, group 5 and 1 are scheduled for blackouts sometime this morning/afternoon.

Group 5: 9:20 - 13:00
Group 1: 12:20 - 16:00

Only time will tell if we're included in these blackouts again. I'm thankful I've been able to wake up to electricity every day so far though.

Finally, I believe the quake in nearby Shizuoka last night was a separate quake, perhaps induced as a result of the main quake Friday, but basically not an aftershock. As I mentioned last night, I felt 3 or so aftershocks following the quake, but nothing since. Then again I was sleeping, and I've been known to sleep through at least one hurricane in the past (Andrew).

Day 6 here we go!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 5

12:00 am - Here's a map of the area for that last M6.4 aftershock in eastern Shizuoka.

And there's little ol me in the neighboring prefecture. It shook well enough here, but wasn't scary. The M6 they had in Shizuoka was pretty bad though. Hope everything is going well there. I'll probably be taking my TV down again tonight just to be on the safe side.

By the way, sounds like the rolling blackouts will be continuing tomorrow. We'll see if we're included in that again or not. Interestingly enough, I hear some cities in Chiba that got hit effected by the large quake and subsequent tsunami were pretty ticked off at TEPCO including them in areas to cut power too, like I literally saw some politician yelling at some TEPCO guys on TV, so they've excluded a number of areas in Chiba and Ibaragi as a result.

Well it's late, and I need to get some sleep. See you all tomorrow.

10:45 pm - Indeed, we felt it as a 4 out in Ebina. Had a third soft aftershock as well. With all these earthquakes I'm starting to get a better handle on the differences between the levels of magnitude in an earthquake. I can't say this is something I'd particularly care to master, but that's the way it is.

10:40 pm - One more soft aftershock, followed by another.

10:35 pm - Just had a strong M6 hit central Shizuoka, which is the prefecture neighboring mine. It was supposedly around a 4 by the time it got out here though. My apartment shook pretty good, but not too bad. That's a pretty strong aftershock, especially 5 days later, and definitely one of the stronger aftershocks we've had in awhile. They say there's no fear of a tsunami.

9:15 pm - My apartment is still here. Yaay. I have electricity, gas, and everything as well. Whew.

I stopped by the convenience store I went to this morning, and they still had some cup ramen left, so I picked up a few while I could. I turned on the TV and noticed some variety shows are on right now. Thats the first time I've seen non-news on every channel since the quake. I want to keep up to date on the state of things, especially with the nuclear plants up in Fukushima, but at the same time I could use a break. Anyways, there's no heightened sense of alert, so I assume things are under control for the moment.

8:15 pm - Alright, everything is confirmed to be up and running again at work. Time to head home. Keeping my fingers crossed about the fire thing they announced.

7:16 pm - Got power back around 6:50, so pretty much 3 hours exactly of blackout. The batteries ran out around 6:40, or 6:45 though, so I almost made it with no down time. Oh well, can't be helped.

6:07 pm - Losing battery on my laptop. Switching to my netbook, at least for as long as the wireless holds.

5:45 pm - Two hours into the blackout. Been working frantically to keep our web server online as long as possible. I've got about 40 min left on battery after cutting all other non-essential systems. The blackout is scheduled to last until 7, but I've heard other areas came back before then. Might be cutting it close, but we'll see. We have backup power for the lights in the building too, but they've long dimmed. Plus the sun is going down. Getting darker but I can still see. A little more and I'll have to bust out the flashlight I guess.

5:30 pm - By the way, I heard them announce over the loudspeakers through the city that there is a fire in Nakashinden........ that's the portion of Ebina where I live. Great.


Fortunately I've moved the wireless into the server room so it can run on battery. Should be good for at least an hour.

2:00 pm - They're giving a weather report on the news now. Rain and snow in north eastern Japan. That won't help with the rescue efforts :(

Also, currently there is a light wind blowing SW, which is why some (relatively harmful) radioactive wind is flowing our way. Tonight, and into tomorrow, the wind will pick up and thankfully be blowing east out to sea. Even if the radioactive wind is harmless, it's nice to know it will be blown out to sea never to be seen again.

1:50 pm - I have heard rumors that radioactive wind could be flowing our way. I think they've taken some readings in Tokyo, but these were very small and of no harm to our health. I'm even further away from Tokyo, so it should be even weaker out here.

By the way, Kana is now in Kyushu. I hope she can stay there for at least a week while this settles down.

Also, I called someone at WCCO on Skype, and I might make the morning news there. How about that.

12:15 pm - Lunch! I'll be glued to the news.

12:00 pm - Seems there was a fire in reactor 4, and there may be radioactive material leaking from reactor 3. Yeesh. Nikkei article here. Also, according to the weather report, there is a light wind blowing southwest, aka in our direction from Fukushima, but we're 200 miles away. Later the wind will pick up and blow East into the sea though.

Also, I believe we're part of the group that may lose some power at 12:20... but who knows what will happen. I guess I'll find out when 12:20 rolls by.

11:15 am - Sounds like I'm on the news! I think you can watch it live here, but the feed isn't working for me in Japan.

11:00 am - Prime Minister Kan is giving a speech about the Fukushima nuclear plant situation right now. He started out summarizing the situation of what happened as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, and how that affected the reactors. He's asking people to remain evacuated beyond 20km. Those who are between 20-30km he's asking to stay inside. Most of the evacuations up to 10km appear to be mostly completed.

They are doing their best to prevent any further explosions or leakages of radioactive material. Three times he mentioned actually he mentioned they are doing everything they possibly can to contain the situation. He ended with asking the country of Japan to remain calm and cooperate with the situation.

10:55 am - They've been mentioned that if there is leakage of radioactive material into the environment, they recommend washing your hands, face and clothes after being outside.

10:35 am - There have been almost 200 aftershocks of M5 of higher since the main quake over the last few days. Also these earthquakes have been occurring over a 200km x 500km area in the sea east of Japan. The number of quakes and the scale it is occurring on it unbelievable. Fortunately they seem to be slowing down, but there was a quake centered on Tokyo around 5 am this morning. I didn't feel it out here as it was only a 1 by the time it got out this way. Also I was sleeping.

By the way, once again has some amazing pictures in its Big Picture section. My personal favorite (in the 'shows the power of the tsunami' sense, not the 'wow a disaster!' sense), is #24 here.

10:25 am - Oops, mad a big typo in my last post. I mean to say I'm confident there won't be a leak of radioactive material into the environment, but I'm not an expert on the situation so I'll just be keeping my eye and ear on the news.

10:15 am - Right before I went to bed last night there was mention that the coolant levels inside reactor 2 in Fukushima plant 1 were lowering again. I woke to reports on an explosion heard sometime last night. Seems like the building itself is still intact? From the basic concepts of how these boiling water reactors work, even in the event of a meltdown the fuel should be melting into a pool on the bottom or in a torus of water under the reactor, so it should still remain contained. Of course if any of that leaks out into the environment, then definitely there is cause for alarm. I'm fairly confident this will won't happen, but I'm also not an expert. I'll just have to keep an ear out for information as the situation evolves.

Anyways, on my way to work sure enough cars were lined up as far as the eye could see for the gas station. Fortunately there was more food and supplies at the convenience store tonight. They're open 24/7, and get restocked at night, so probably the best time to go out and get food and supplies is late night or morning.

Hearing reports that the confirmed dead has risen to 2500, but the missing count is over 17,000 now. Unbelievable.

9:30 am - Wow, I'm over the 3000 mark now. That's approx 1800 hits since Friday. Thanks everyone!

8:30 am - Time to head out to work. Crossing my fingers we don't lose power again today.

Also, I just interviewed with Fox 9 in Minneapolis on Skype. I might be on the news!

8:10 am - Has it really been 5 days since the Earthquake? Well sounds like reactor 2 in Fukushima had some problems over night. Also the trains appear to be better than they were yesterday, but even then its definitely not going to be enough. Glad I'm a bike ride away from work!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 4

Google has put together an impressive crisis response page for this disaster.

11:30 pm - The government has been talking about the power plant and possible rolling power outages tomorrow. I'd like to prepare for set outage times, but seeing as though I was practically crying wolf all day, I'll just be ready as I can at any time, and on alert during our set outage period. With that said, they've rotated the times, and now groups 1 and 5 are going to be sometime in the middle of the day/afternoon. Well, we'll see what happens.

Interestingly enough, a lot of video summaries for the day on the news have been all about the supposed rolling blackouts that never came. Seems like the plea to Japan to conserve power worked so well, they were able to operate w/out cutting power for most all of the day. They say it may turn to be a day to day battle with power supply, which they will cut certain areas if and when necessary.

One piece of good news though, is that the aftershocks have really died down. There were a few larger ones during the day today, but nothing since this afternoon. This seems like a good sign, but it's still too early to let my guard down.

Anyways, survived weekday #1 after the quake. Tomorrow may turn into more of an adventure, but we'll take it one day at a time.

9:30 pm - I just found an amazing, comprehensive article that describes the situation occurring with the Fukushima nuclear reactors. I highly recommend reading this article as it clears up many many confusing aspects about the design and safety features on the reactors. The bottom line is that even in the worst case of a core melt down, which has been prevented, all the really bad radiation will be contained as per design of the reactor. There will be nothing close to Chernobyl, and the effects will be limited to the surrounding area at worst.

Nice to have one less thing to worry about. Thank you science!!

8:50 pm - Got home a couple hours ago. I went out to buy a few things, but anticipating blackouts, most stores were closed. The convenience stores were open, but here too people anticipating blackouts pretty much gutted them of anything useful. I bought some tea and face masks and basically just got a little exercise.

In the end we didn't have any power outage today, and I still have power now. They did cut some power in parts of Chiba in the morning, and in parts of Ibaragi and Shizuoka in the evening. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I'll be as prepared as I can. Perhaps part of the reason they were able to keep the power on was because of all the companies not in operation at the moment. Unfortunately it seems like a lose-lose situation. They can get people to work and cut power in rotating groups to address power shortages, and tick a bunch of people off who lose power. Or they can say they'll cut power, not let anyone go to work, consequently not need as much power, and tick a bunch of people off for not cutting power like they said they would. This is supposedly going to continue for a month and a half.

5:45 pm - Just heard a report that over 6,200 buildings have been destroyed from the earthquake and tsunami. Wow.

5:25 pm - Seems like the outages are only going to be affecting parts of Ibaragi and Shizuoka, so... according to that we're in the clear. That's cool. (keeping fingers crossed)

5:15 pm - I've given up reporting on what they think may happen and will just mention what actually happens. Right now they are currently enacting a certain portion of outages in Group 5, which we are technically a part of. That doesn't mean we will lose power, but it means we have a possibility of losing power. According to the news though, they're starting the outages, but I haven't heard of anywhere that actually has lost power yet. (We still have power). I have heard however that group 1 will probably not lose power (which I'm in), so that's good to hear.

3:40 pm - Now word on the street is that they are just announcing there is a very small percentage that they will cut power at 3:20 pm (how about 0% since its already past?) There is also a small chance they will cut power at 4:20, but they are saying they're planning on cutting power from 5 to 7... I feel like I'm crying wolf here. I'm happy that we still have electricity for sure, but when they say they're going to cut power, I don't to be caught in the middle of something, so I try to get to a stopping point in my work. Then I don't want to start up again cause who knows when the power will be cut. Oh well, I'll just continue to play it by ear here...

3:30 pm - Hey look at that, we still have power...

3:00 pm - Found what I was looking for. Sounds like they may be enacting the group 5 power outage after all from 3:20 pm. Better get everything prepared just in case.

2:45 pm - I knew the death toll would begin to rise dramatically, but now I'm hearing reports now of thousands of bodies washed onto shore. Just... speechless.

2:20 pm - Found an article from the Washington Post at least confirming they've suspended the blackouts where possible. It sounds like they will continue to play it by ear, but stress that there will be risk of blackout from a shortage in power supply especially during peak times.

One side note here, I have not heard or seen any news stories about looting in Japan yet. In fact, there's already and article of the exact opposite. This is a real testament to the general order and respect ingrained in Japanese culture, one of the aspects I like the most about this place. Even when all the trains were stopped and everyone tried to go home by taxi, even though it may be faster to wave a taxi off the street, there were massive lines hundreds of feet long of people lining up for taxis at the stations. Given this mindset, and given that everyone is aware of how grave of a situation we are facing, asking the people of Japan to conserve energy use should be a viable option that should at least be explored. My two yen.

Also, I hear the trains are stopped today not because they cannot power the trains, but because they cannot power the stations. The trains themselves can run under their own power generated by the train companies, but it's the stations that are powered by TEPCO. This is supposedly the main reason why they have been running on a limited schedule as well.

2:00 pm - I've just heard that there is a huge debate going on regarding the rolling blackouts TEPCO has been intending to implement starting today and lasting through April. Apparently they're receiving pressure from politicians to think of other solutions than shutting down parts of the Kanto area. Basically someone finally stood up and said, "Hey guys, wait a minute. Shutting down Tokyo could cripple the economy. We have all of Central and Western Japan completely intact. How about we ask the country to preserve power, and pump what we can over from other parts of the country before we resort to blackouts." At least that's my interpretation on the situation, but it would explain why they haven't done a blackout yet. I'm still looking for an article to back this up, but it sounds like the 3:20 blackout is also up for grabs. I'll need to keep an eye out on that too.

1:40 pm - This is an excellent article the explains exactly what is going on with the Nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

1:15 pm - Here's a video comparing the explosions of reactors 1 and 3 in Fukushima. They mention that you could see some flames in reactor 3, which is cause for concern. I believe the actual container housing the reactor is still safe though.

12:10 pm - As a result of the hydrogen explosion at reactor 3 up in Fukushima plant 1, we've all put on masks at work as a precaution. We're just under 200 miles away, and the wind is supposedly blowing north, northwest, but you can never be too careful. This is the first time I've ever worn a mask by the way.

11:50 am - Here's an English article on the partially suspended power outages. Looks like CNN already has a report on it here.

11:45 am - A little after 11, the concrete protective housing around reactor 3 in Fukushima's nuclear plant 1 had a similar hydrogen explosion as reactor 1.

10:30 am - Wow, I've surpassed the 2000 page view mark on my blog now (since I started tracking last summer), with over 1000 hits since Friday. I peaked at 138 visits from 89 visitors and 411 page views on Friday alone. Thanks everyone!!

10:15 am - Getting info on that last aftershock. It was a M6.2 off the coast of Ibaragi, 10 km underground (pretty shallow I guess). The strongest felt on land was a weak 5, but we only got a 2 in this area.

10:03 am - Alarms just went off on cell phones. Incoming earthquake... not too bad here. Done now, probably only a strong 2 in these parts.

10:00 am - It's 10am, and I still have power. Guess we got through the morning unscathed? Yaay!

9:42 am - Tokyo Electric has been making announcements as the situation evolves. Now they're saying they're moving on without enforcing the outage for group 1, and are still considering what to do with group 2. We'll just have to play it by ear, and be on alert during our planned

9:30 am - Still here, with power. There was a report the power would cut at 9:20, but so far we're still in operation. Maybe we're in group 1 or 5 and not both... very confusing. Trying to be as prepared as we can though.

9:15 am - Just heard a rumor we could be losing power in 5 min.

9:05 am - At work, we still have power. My desktop is an eerie sort of screen shot from right after the quake of me pouring over news websites for information. I've also got windows and tabs open for what I was working on from before the quake.

8:30 am - Well, I still have power, that's also not stopping my bike from working, so I guess I'll head into work.

7:50 am - Now they're saying they may in fact implement the blackout after all, because of a shortage in power supply. So I guess I'll just have to play it by ear. Glad I've had an extra hour of electricity than expected so far though.

7:30 am - Supposedly they've canceled the blackout for the morning group (which I'm in). But seems they've also halted a lot of train lines, and people are unable to get to work. I'm only a bike ride away though, so that doesn't affect me. The good news though, if we don't lose power is that at least my company can stay online.

7:00 am - Still have power, but I'm sure I'll be losing it shortly. I just found an article talking about the shift in the Earth's axis as a result of the quake. Seems it shifted the Earth's axis about 6.5 inches, the Earth is rotating 1.8 microseconds faster, and some parts of Japan are 12 feet closer to North America.

6:40 am - Well I woke up with power, but it will probably be cut soon enough. They're making announcements around the city.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 3

A massive M8.8 M9.0 quake hit off the coast of Miyagi prefecture in Japan on Friday afternoon, and several M6 aftershocks have been continuing for the last few days. I live 300 miles or so away, yet we felt an frightening M5 out here. Fortunately there was little to no damage, and my friends, coworkers and myself are safe and sound. Latest earthquake information at the Japan Meteorological Agency. Day 2 posts can be found here.

1:30 am - Alright, I need to get some sleep. I've still got food/water/clothes ready for an emergency, and will be sleeping with my shoes close by in case. I think I'll also take down my TV when I'm not at home/asleep to be safe. When I wake up in the morning I more than likely will not have power either, so I'll update from my phone. I'll be charging everything I can until morning (I even have a spare phone). Seems like I've got an interesting week ahead.

By the way, Google has put together a quite impressive Crisis Response page for this earthquake.

12:30 am - WOAH! I just saw this on TV. If you want to know how high and strong the tsunami was, here is a good indication:

That would be a large ferry on top of a two story building. Unbelievable. How in the world are they going to get that down???

11:30 pm - I've finally got some specifics on the rolling power outages. My company in Nakano, Ebina, Kangawa; and my apartment in Nakashinden, Ebina, Kanagawa are both in the same groups 1 and 5. Here's the estimated outage times -

Group 1: 6:20 – 10:00 (4:20 pm - 8 pm CST)
Group 5: 15:20 – 19:00 (1:20 am - 5 am CST)
Group 1: 16:50 – 20:30 (4:50 am - 6:30 am CST)

Each blackout period will have approximately 3 hours of power outage. G1 and G5 overlap in the evening with G1 starting an hour earlier, so perhaps I will have 4 hours w/out power in the evening. Furthermore, I'm hearing reports this will be lasting through the end of April.


Wow. Seems this is starting to hit home. As crappy as it is, I'm at least thankful for my safety more than anything. I guess I'll be playing a lot of DS for the next couple of months though!

8:45 pm - They just officially announced that they will be dividing the Kanto area into 5 different groups and implement power outages in rotation 3 hours at a time. Seems at peak times during the week there is a 4100Kw power demand, but the max capacity with the remaining power plants is 1000Kw short. Seems like this also affects Kanagawa where myself and my company are, so its highly possible I'll be affected.

6:00 pm - They just removed all the tsunami watches!! The coasts should be safe from tsunami now!!

5:50 pm - I found some amazing before and after pictures. Roll over the image to scroll between before/after.

3:40 pm - The original quake was M9.0. There have been multiple aftershocks of M7 since, several of M6, and over 150 aftershocks of M5. They're saying there is a 90% chance another M7 may hit within a week. Looking for articles to back this up.

Found a map on Wikipedia:

3:05 pm - The dead and missing count is up to 2800 now. I've heard multiple reports of hundreds of bodies being found in single areas at a time as well. I'm also hearing that as a result of several power plants being shut down, including the 2 nuclear plants in Fukushima, they may be implementing rotational power outages. During the weekend now there is less power usage, but when people return to work and businesses start up again on Monday, power usage will spike again. Anticipating a shortage, they may cut power to certain areas for 3 hours at a time. Here's a translation of the NHK article.

2:45 pm - I just found a high quality 15 min video from NHK of the main tsunami hitting Sendai, as seen from a helicopter. This is unbelievable. Warning: You can see cars that were driving get swept away by the tsunami. Terrifying.

2:20 pm - I just heard a story of a man in his 60s swept out to sea by the receding tsunami who was picked up by an Aegis cruiser out at sea. Wow.

1:30 pm - Went out for a walk and to get a few things. It's again nice to see semblance of normalcy outside after watching all this destruction on the news. The stores are still fairly gutted, lots of instant foods and batteries sold out everywhere. Otherwise the situation is pretty calm, a nice sunny day actually.

12:15 pm - The main earthquake, after being revised from an 8.9 to an 8.8 has now further revised and upgraded to a magnitude 9.0, which is 474 megatons.

11:20 am - Here's a video from inside the Sendai airport that I found yesterday and have been meaning to post. It's interesting to see views of the tsunami from the ground as it happens. The unbelievable forces of water involved are truly astonishing.

10:45 am - They've been showing this footage of the tsunami hitting Miyako in Miyagi Prefecture since yesterday evening. Notice how the water is pitch black, a result of sand, silt, and dirt from the displacement of earth on the seafloor that created the tsunami. Also, the flow of water is so powerful, one of the fishing boats gets forced under a bridge like its going trough a shredder or trash compactor.

10:30 am - Another aftershock of M4 on land hit Ibaragi and Chiba (closer to Tokyo and Kanagawa), but the only felt maybe an M2 hour here. Again, we received advance warning via TV and cellphone.

9:45 am - Good morning. We had a few aftershocks over night, with a larger M6 off the coast of Miyagi around 8 am. It's very rare for aftershocks of this magnitude to continue for this long. The news is saying it wouldn't be out of the question for a large aftershock or separate earthquake to hit the Tokyo region, partially because of the type of earthquake we had - a shallow megathrust. The Pacific tectonic plate pushes against the Eurasian plate of the coast of East Japan. As the Pacific plate pushes against the Eurasian plate, it pulls some of the Eurasian plate with it. This quake occurred when the Eurasian plate rebounded backward, displacing an immeasurable amount of water, resulting in massive tsunamis of up to 10 m along the entire east coast of Japan.

Basically something like this, except instead of coastline, this happened 50 miles out to sea, but only 25 miles or so underground. The uplift from the immense rebound is what caused the massive tsunamis which lasted for more than a day.

Yesterday perhaps you heard the news about the concrete outer housing on reactor 1 of plant 1 in Fukushima exploding. The reactor itself is fine, and we won't have anything like Chernobyl, but there are already reports of people with radiation poisoning, and hundreds more at risk. Fortunately they've reported these people don't have much risk to their health.

However, it seems similar situations are occurring to reactors 2 and 3 which they're trying to get under control. Because of the type of reactor (boiling water reactor) there fortunately are less risks involved even in the event of a meltdown.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sendai Quake - Day 2

Day 1 posts can be found here. Also, this blog got on a news article on the Waukesha Patch back at home!

11:40 pm - The M5 earthquake in Niigata also had an M3 earthquake that occurred at the same time off the coast of Ibaragi. Seems to be coincidence, but whew.

11:35 pm - Another earthquake warning via TV and phone, 30 seconds later it hit, but not very strong. It was centered in Niigata I hear. The earthquake from an hour ago off the coast of Fukushima was M6 they're saying now.

11:30 pm - Alright, now they're talking about how a few hundred people in the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plants are at risk of radiation poisoning. Yikes. Also I've heard a report that over 2500 buildings have been reported to be completely leveled. Not damaged, but wiped away clean.

11:00 pm - By the way, I've mentioned it before but there have been many reports of aftershocks and other damage since, so I'll mention it again. Everything around the area I live in is safe and sound. Barring any large quake hitting the Tokyo area directly, I should pull out of this just fine. I'm definitely getting tired of all the shaking though, haha.

10:30 pm - For most of the evening they were talking about the nuclear power plant up in Fukushima that, well... exploded. Not in the nuclear explosion type, but rather the pressure was building up because they were unable to cool the reactor. Also, because of the type of reactor, there's not really a major risk of something like Chernobyl, but they're taking plenty of preparation for the worst case scenario, and are evacuating people within a 20km radius.

Here's a video of the outer shell of the reactor complex basically disappearing at about 45 sec in.

Now after a day of assessing the aftermath, a lot of reports are rolling in about the state of things in Japan. Entire cities on the coast are completely devastated, some wiped clean off the face of the earth. More videos from when the tsunami rolled in are coming out too. Hundreds of thousands of people between the prefectures north of Tokyo and all the way through Hokkaido are without power and gas. They're saying it could take 2 weeks to restore some utilities. The biggest problem though is food. Roads and bridges are devastated, so its very difficult to get supplies through. They're saying people are living off a couple onigiri and some tea a day at the moment. Help is on the way from all over the world, including the US military on its way I hear.

A little on the good news though, the tsunami warnings have been downgraded again, and we don't have any more large tsunami warnings, just normal tsunami warnings around the coast close to the epicenter, and simple watches elsewhere. We did however just get another aftershock that hit to 5 or 6 on land. Actually we found out about it from Kana's cell phone alarm going off, then the news warning of an incoming earthquake, and finally 20-30 seconds later the earthquake came. Amazing to see the earthquake preparedness in action. The quake wasn't bad, but definitely one of the stronger aftershocks we've had in the last several hours.

Anyways, getting tired both physically and mentally. I'll probably pass out on the floor here, heh.

8:00 pm - At Kana's apartment. There have been a few aftershocks yet, but few and far between. Ruling out another separate earthquake in this area, I think things are finally calming down. The trains and streets were normal for the most part, although the grocery stores were still gutted off food. Kana's gas at her apartment was actually stopped automatically from the main earthquake, and we had to go restart it at the meter outside her door. That's a good feeling to know your gas cuts off automatically if there's a strong enough earthquake.

Well we're getting tired of watching the news about all the destruction and such that's going on, so we're watching something else for now, switching back to the news to keep updated every once in awhile.

4:30 pm - On the train blogging from my phone. The trains have no timetables, but are running every 15 min. It's actually really nice to get outside. Watching all that destruction on the news can be a major downer. It's nice to see semblance of normal society and people around the city, and buildings standing. It's actually even more amazing what's going on in eastern japan, cause it's a gorgeous day out over here. They're saying the trains are slowing their speed for safety, but I wouldn't have noticed if they didn't mention it. In fact looking around town you wouldn't guess that one of if not the worst earthquake just hit japan yesterday.

4:00 pm - Just got another aftershock, this one worse than we've had in awhile, at least since aftershocks shortly after the main quake. Seems it was centered in chiba, which is much closer to where I live. Nothing major though.

3:45 pm - My gf is safe and sound at home, and the trains seem to have been running for most of the day now. I'm gonna venture out and see if I can't make it to her apartment. Hopefully I don't get stuck, but if I do I have my phone with me so you'll hear about it!

3:00 pm - Found the video from Kamaishi. Looks like someone took a video of it. I was watching this exact feed.

Also, they've confirmed over 450 or so deaths, and upped the missing to a thousand, making about 1400 total dead or missing. Also, I just felt another small aftershock.

2:00 pm - They just downgraded the tsunami warnings around the country. Miyagi and the surrounding prefectures are still at large tsunami warnings, but the rest of Japan has been downgraded to a regular tsunami warnings or watches. I just saw an amazing video of the moment the tsunami came to Kamaishi, Iwate on the news, but haven't been able to find a video yet. Here are some other amazing ones from YouTube though.

The tank that exploded, around 1:40 in. It took 10 seconds for the explosion to reach the guy who recorded this.

Here's another of the moment the tsunami arrived

An areal view of the tsunami advancing on land.

When I find the video from Kamaishi (釜石市), I'll post it.

1:15 pm - They're saying that M6.7 earthquake in the Nagoya/Niigata area was on a different tectonic plate, and therefore an entirely different earthquake from the massive one we had yesterday. It's certainly possible the one from yesterday could have been a catalyst, but it basically wasn't an aftershock, but a different earthquake all together.

12:10 pm - Yaaay! Kana is finally home! After getting off the train at Shinagawa she headed for Gotanda and Meguro to see if she could catch a train from there to get closer to home. Well apparently she was able to catch a taxi and get all the way home!! Yes! Plus, her room was just fine!!!The TV didn't fall or anything. Plus the stores in that area seem to actually have food, where as the stores in Tokyo were supposedly gutted. Kana! So glad to hear you finally got home! It's been almost 20 hours since the earthquake, but you're home now! 本当にお疲れ様!! Now get some rest. :D

Hmm... just felt another aftershock while writing this. I fell asleep for another half hour to an hour earlier; no surprise from only getting a few hours of sleep last night. I think its about time I shower and make some lunch though.

10:50 am - Kana called and told me it took half an hour to travel two stations, and then the train stopped again. Man that's gotta be so frustrating not being able to get home. Maybe she can take a different line to get closer to home and walk/taxi from there. By the way, just had another weak aftershock. They're definitely getting fewer and far between, so hopefully this is an indication the earthquake is ending.

10:15 am - I just saw them interview someone who lived on the prefectural border between Miyagi and Fukushima. She said the earthquake was so strong she could barely keep standing, much less keep things from falling over, so she escaped outside. After the earthquake she began cleaning up, but her neighbor warned her of the coming tsunami. The eventually fled by car to higher ground, where she witnessed her own house get washed away by the tsunami. There are many others with similar experiences who have lost so much. I'm thankful for their safety, but can't even imagine the loss they've just experienced. Wow.

9:50 am - They've been talking about it on the news, and I found an English article about it too. There are a couple nuclear power plants in Fukushima, which is on the east coast of Japan south of Miyagi where the earthquake hit. These power plants are right on the coast and got hit hard. They've been talking about them since yesterday. It sounds like they're now telling people within a 10km radius of the power plants to evacuate, as they may need to release some radioactive steam to release growing pressure and heat.

9:25 am - Actually, Kana just called and said the trains started up again so she's gonna train home instead. Sounds like the roads are packed, so it would be faster to go home by train anyways. That said, the trains are packed too, so it'll be a tight ride home for sure. Hopefully it won't take long (usually only 30 min), and more importantly hopefully the trains don't stop again.

9:10 am - Kana supposedly got a taxi! Yeaaa!

9:00 am - Kana called and tells me she's still stuck in Tokyo. The trains had started moving, but stopped again for safety. She's trying to find a taxi to get home if she can. Otherwise she might have to return to her company again to wait it out and get online. She'd definitely like to get home and see if her room is ok. I'd be worried sick.

Sounds like a M6.7 hit Niigata around 4 am, an hour after I went to bed last night so I didn't notice. According to the JMA though, it was only an M1 or 2 around here, so it wasn't that strong by the time it got out here. It's unbelievable how many aftershocks are constantly occurring since. Still looking for an accurate source, but I've seen graphics on TV of 6 or 7 aftershocks of around M5 to M6. In the Sendai area (original quake) and Niigata area a couple hundred miles north of where I live.

8:40 am - Here's a bit of good news. Japan is the most prepared country in the world when it comes to earthquakes and tsunamis, and it's definitely saving lives.

8:00 am - Good morning. I ended up falling asleep around 3 am or so last night. Glad to see my TV hasn't fallen on top of me over night, hah. My girlfriend called and said the trains are starting up again around now, but there's thousands upon thousands, probably millions of people also stuck in Tokyo that are anxious to get home. So she might wait a bit for it to calm down some. Her apartment is on the 7th (top) floor though, so we're a bit worried about what her room could be like. Depending on what happens, she might come out here or head to a relatives in the area, rather than sitting this out on the 7th floor. I would be a bit worried about using an elevator after something like this.

Anyways, I hear there was a large aftershock quake in my area over night, but I slept through the whole thing. For what it's worth, I slept through Hurricane Andrew 10 20 years ago too by the way. Everything in my apartment is still upright though, so it must not have been too bad. Still feeling aftershocks, but my body is still hyper-sensitive to motion, so at any given point its difficult to tell it its actually shaking or my body is just out of whack. So far the dead or missing counts is exceeding 1000, according to the news.

I'm hearing some pretty amazing stats about this quake...

"The US Geological Survey is reporting that the coast of Japan has shifted 8 feet (2.4m) because of the earthquake in Japan. The Earth's axis has reportedly been shifted 10 inches too."

I guess the trip home has gotten somewhat slower? But now my GPS Mapping on Google Maps might be slightly off kilter! I wonder if Google will adjust.

Finally, here's an amazing collection of pictures from

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