Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virginia earthquake

So, if you're on the East Coast (as many of my readers are), you probably felt the quake. If you're elsewhere, you've probably heard of it. On the off-chance you haven't, here's the news: there was a 5.8 earthquake in central Virginia today which was felt from New England to South Carolina.

So here's how I experienced it.

The baby woke up early from his nap, and started melting down pretty much right away. So I was alternately feeding him snacks and nursing him for about an hour. I was sitting at the computer, reading blogs while he was nursing, when I felt a slight rumble. My thought process went like this:

Huh, someone's moving around upstairs.
Wait, we don't live in an apartment anymore.
Is someone in the house?!
No, duh, it's a truck going by.
Except it feels like it's in the house.
Maybe it's that construction nearby.
Feels like an earthquake, except we don't have them here.

Then the rumbling suddenly changed gears and became really strong. The door started rattling loudly and the whole house shook. I grabbed the baby into my arms, pulled my shirt down, and headed for the door. The floor seemed to be tilting and my legs were unsteady. The cat rocketed through the house with her ears laid back. By this point I was thinking there had been some sort of underground explosion and there was no telling how serious it would be. So I dashed out of the house and into the yard.

Everyone else in the neighborhood was pouring out of their houses too, so I talked with the neighbor two doors down and her three boys. The boys were full of excitement and were retelling the story to each other over and over. The mom and I were both puzzling over what that was. "It really felt like an earthquake, but we don't get those here," was the general verdict. We wondered if it was an underground cave collapsing or a problem with the construction site. The older lady across the street said there is a fault line right across the river from us, and that was probably it. We all were excited that we'd felt something and wanted to call those family members who weren't with us and tell them all about it.

Then someone drove by and said they had just been on the phone with someone who had felt it in Vienna. We all were surprised: "All the way in Vienna? It must have been big!"

After awhile of no aftershocks, we slowly ventured back inside. I went on Facebook to tell them all about the earthquake and see if anyone else had felt it. And everyone else had felt it! The real shocker was when a friend from New York posted about it. I went back outside to call John (we have no reception inside), but couldn't reach him. Everyone else was out there, too, trying their cell phones, but the networks were overloaded and no one could get through.

I wasn't really concerned, but it was still a load off my mind when my mother-in-law posted on Facebook that John had managed to get through to her, and that he was all right. He had had a scarier time than me. In DC, most people thought it was a bomb or some kind of attack. Even when it was clear that it was an earthquake, it was still frightening, because there are many old and unstable buildings there. John's building is very old, and next door to it is an abandoned, crumbling building that could have easily fallen on it. He was evacuated from the building and eventually told to go home, because they weren't sure it was safe to go back inside. And then he had a nightmare getting home, as all the trains were on speed restriction in case of undiscovered track damage, and most of the bridges were closed. Everyone was trying to get home at once, so it was crazy. He finally got home about an hour late.

Here, I haven't seen any damage. I did hear some sirens right after the earthquake, but it may have been just the fire department checking out tripped alarms. In DC, there has been quite a bit of minor damage. The National Cathedral is missing the top of one spire, and there was quite a bit of fallen stone off the buildings. The city was just not ready for an earthquake.

Right where the epicenter was, it was a serious quake, bad enough to bring buildings down. Luckily, it was in the middle of farmland, where there were few if any buildings. It could have been much worse if the location had been just a little different. Thank God we are all safe.

Did you feel it?

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