Organic Matter: Writer has gotten small taste of disasters now hitting Japan<BR>

I suspect most Californians take for granted the possibility their community could be hit by an earthquake at any time.

After all, their state is on the Pacific Rim, where earthquakes are common.

Californians also have the much-heralded and unpredictable San Andreas Fault, perhaps the most unstable rock strata on the planet, within their state.

Back in the 1970s, I was in the Navy and stationed in San Diego.

I felt the ground shake one day from an earthquake in the Los Angeles area, the only time in my life I have had such an experience I am happy to say.

I realize Kingman residents experienced tremors last year from an earthquake in California that struck in the wee hours of the morning.

But I was sound asleep at the time and did not know anything had occurred until I went to work that morning, so I missed it.

People were going about their daily activities at the time of the quake I refer to in the early 1970s.

Some immediately knew what was happening, while others looked around in confusion.

Sitting on the western edge of the Pacific Rim is Japan, a country I visited during my Navy days.

The Japanese are not taking earthquakes for granted today, nor volcanoes.

Three volcanoes have had large eruptions in the last four months.

An eruption of Mount Oyama on the small resort island of Miyakejima was the largest there since 1990.

The island has about 4,000 residents.

Another volcano on a small island near Tokyo erupted, sending plumes of black ash into the sky and forcing the evacuation of more than 600 residents.

Seismographs on Miyakejima have recorded tens of thousands of earthquakes in the last two months.

They are thought to be caused by shifts in the vast underground pools of magma.

Buildings in Tokyo and Yokohama, 120 miles away, have swayed from some of the 12,000 quakes strong enough to be felt.

In July, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit the central Japan province of Ibaraki.

An offshore quake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale stopped bullet trains running southwest of Tokyo.

These natural disasters add to the problems caused in Japan by typhoons during this time of year.

Typhoons are the name given in the western Pacific to what we know as hurricanes.

While some hurricanes form off the west coast of Mexico and can move northward into the southwestern states, most of those storms tend to head west into the open Pacific, thus posing little danger to Arizona.

The hurricane (or typhoon) season in the Pacific always seems to start earlier and have more storms than its counterpart in the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane Andrew ravaged Florida in 1992 and was a major reason why I chose to move away from the Sunshine State.

Whenever I see a report on the television about a hurricane or typhoon striking some populated region, I feel sympathy for those affected and thank God that I was able to move someplace where the weather is far less violent.

But getting back to Japan, roughly 20 million people live in the greater Tokyo area.

Tokyo was struck by earthquakes in 1703, 1782 and 1812.

The death count there from quakes was 7,000 in 1855 and over 100,000 from the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Estimates suggest about 7,100 people would die and about 500,000 homes would be destroyed in a magnitude 7 quake hit Tokyo today.

I hope you are never caught up in an earthquake or volcanic eruption.

I also hope you do not take a sunny day for granted any more.

Arizonans have much for which to be thankful.