Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: the Earth

What could be wilder than what the earth did yesterday at 1:51 in Mineral, Virginia?

Okay, lots of things.  But it was still freaky.  Earthquakes don't happen in Maryland (or at least when they do, we don't feel them).   In talking to my neighbors, friends and family, not one person initially thought it was an earthquake. When interviewed, even the director of the Maryland Geological Society thought it was a large truck rolling by. Only when the shaking continued, he realized it was the real thing.

My brother-in-law works on the National Mall.  He and his co-workers thought they were experiencing the aftershocks of a terrorist attack. It's a real possibility here in the East and though I haven't seen the odds, I imagine a more likely scenario than an earthquake.

I first felt the quake as a strong vibration of the large nine-story building I work in.  I thought perhaps it was being caused by the construction workers renovating three floors in the west wing.  As the vibrations turned into shaking, I realized even if it were still the construction workers, it was not normal for the building to be shaking so.  As the movement subsided, we were told to evacuate and only then did I think earthquake.

I also began to worry.  I realized in the scheme of quakes, this was a relatively small one, but I wondered: in old cities like Baltimore and Washington, how much, if any buildings are built to withstand a medium-sized shaking?  My normal commute takes me through the Harbor Tunnel--a claustrophobic experience in the best of times.  What kind of shaking could it take?

And of course, I worried about my boys.  Not so much their safety, because I knew they were well cared for at school, but that they would be frightened and freaked out. I got reports of their safety and called them as soon as I could (it was their dad's night). It was their first day of second and fourth grade, so I first asked them about their days.  They were excited and happy to tell me about new teachers, friends, and how they already had homework.

"Did anything else exciting happen today?" I asked Matt.

"Oh yeah, the earth moved," he said matter-of-factly.  "You see, there are these two plates and one of them moves ..."

Definitely not freaked out.

Then it was Gabe's turn.  He didn't initially mention the quake either.  So, I asked him the same question.

His answer: "it was earthquaking and it was weird."

And then he moved on to bigger and better things, like which days he has music and art.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sources and Further Reading

"A Reminder of a Dynamic Planet,"

"Best Earthquake Tweets," The Washington Post

"Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake Strikes National Capital Area, USGS

"Washington Monument Shuttered by Earthquake that Rocked Capital," The Washington Post

"USGS Community Internet Intensity Map," USGS

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