I was in Wellington last weekend visiting family - I took Friday off work, and was walking around the city just in time for the magnitude 6.5 earthquake at 2:30pm. I haven't been in many earthquakes recently, so it took me quite a while to realise what was going on - at first I thought my knees had just gone a bit wobbly! Then I noticed the tram cables clattering loudly together overhead, and then finally clicked when the lady beside me grabbed on to a tree for support. By this time the worst was over and things slowly stopped shaking.
At street level I didn't think the earthquake was very bad, and wrote it off as a regular Wellington occurrence, but while buying coffee from Mojo, I overheard people mentioning numbers like '6.5' and '6.9' and tried to look up the NZ Herald on my phone, but 3G reception was dead. I also noticed lots of people on the street - most ground level shops seemed to be operating as usual (except a lot of staff chatting in groups), but the tower blocks were emptying and some had security guards stopping people entering.
I made my way down towards the Beehive area, and finally noticed real unusual activity - the grassy areas were covered in people meeting in groups, the streets were clogged with traffic, and the railway station was closed. One nice aspect was all the cars stopping in the street, offering the crowd of people rides home due to the rail closure.
Walking back along the waterfront, I noticed many people with glasses of wine and beer sitting in the parks, and all of the city pubs had filled up. With the traffic and transport chaos, I guess many people decided to hang out and relax, and wait for it to subside! If I didn't know there had been an earthquake, I would have thought it was a very nice evening in the city, with lots of people socialising and enjoying the mild winter day.
When I first noticed everyone leaving work and heading home around 3pm, I thought it was somewhat of an overreaction to a mild shake - but I was at street level, and I can imagine it was a lot rougher for people working 30 floors up! I'm sure I would have left work for a beer also. Glad nobody was hurt, and the city damage was relatively minor.