Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Great East Coast Quake of 2011

As everyone with TV or internet access knows by now, the East Coast had an earthquake yesterday. It was interesting, exciting, and a little bit weird.

I was at work when the quake hit. The first thing I noticed was the sound, not the shaking. One of my coworkers and I had the same response. We both stood up and looked out the window at the tree because we thought it was a wind gust. As we both saw that the tree was calm, we realized what was going on. An earthquake!

And this is were my geekiness comes out. The first thing I said was how glad I was to have bookmarked the USGS website. I was very surprised to see that the quake was centered in Virginia since we quickly got word that people in New Jersey and further north in Pennsylvania had felt it. That's some serious shaking!

Many buildings in the area were evacuated, but most for only a short time. We remained in our office, but I learned this morning that the building next to mine actually sustained some minor damage. This really shocked me because the shaking didn't feel that serious or last very long. I suspect some of that has to do with the construction of the building I work in.

The quake was a huge topic of discussion through the afternoon and evening. It was interesting to hear what different people thought was happening. Andy thought someone was shaking his chair. One neighbor thought a train was going by. Another was trying to nap with her 4 year old, and she ended up yelling at her for shaking the bed! My favorite was from a chemist, who was trying to measure out a chemical on a scale and was annoyed at his company for buying such crappy equipment that wouldn't equalize.

Because of the timing, all of our kids were napping and ended up sleeping through the whole thing. However, by the end of the day Michael was talking as if he had actually felt it himself. I suspect that many of the current 5 year olds who slept through it will actually have "memories" of the shaking because they heard so much about it.

Overall, in Philly, it was mostly just an exciting afternoon. There was increased traffic because many tall buildings in the city needed inspection so everyone left and also because trains were restricted to 25 MPH limits until tracks and bridges could be inspected. But mostly, around here, it made for a fun and social day.

I realize that that is not what happened for many in Washington D.C. and NYC. Many people in those cities reported that their first though wasn't a train or the wind. Their first thought was that it was a bomb. It can't help but remind me of all of the little things that were lost on 9/11. For people in those cities, my "Wow! This is cool!" moment was a, "Oh Shit!" moment. It makes me sad and angry.

Overall, even though I think the media way overplayed the story, I am glad that the impact of the quake was minimal and that public safety took priority over keeping the trains running on time.

I will say that I am a little concerned about the students in Michael's class. As a result of the earthquake, we got out his Smithsonian book on Earthquakes. It's a bit scary and includes several references to "lives lost". So, of course, Michael just had to take it to school with him. I left a note for his teacher warning her that it's not appropriate, but when I left, Michael had the book open and was showing another boy the map that illustrates what levels of damage you can expect from earthquakes around the country.

Oops. My bad.


Mel said...

Glad you all survived to tell about it:) Michael makes me laugh. Little professor :)

DesiDVM said...

You're probably right about kids having "memories" of this earthquake later. When I was around 5 or 6 there was a tornado that touched down near us (ok like 10 miles away). It was all over the news for a couple of days and I think it was my first major tornado warning down in the basement that I can remember. Anyway my mom insists that all we did was watch it on TV later but I swear I have memories of seeing that funnel cloud coming down out of the sky right outside our house. I actually remember it!

Julie said...

I had to laugh about the chemist. My first earthquake was in San Diego and it was pretty unsettling, but I discovered why our lab had a 2 inch strip of plastic lining the edges of all the shelves--so we wouldn't have to clean up chemicals and glass when the whole building shook and the trees were swaying back and forth!

The good thing about earthquakes though is that by the time you realize what is going on, its over.