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Thursday, August 25, 2011
Quake Sends US East Coast Scrambling Like 9/11
That rarest of events, an East
Coast Earthquake, visited us of Tuesday.Obviously the damage was minimal, but the strength was quite sufficient
to ensure no one missed it.I am sure
the folks who got the biggest shock were in nice high towers and all learned
why the buildings are designed to sway.
Another one took place over in Colorado to make it two
apparently separate events.
Causation of these quakes are a
bit of a mystery as we do not have the obvious geology to point to.My best guess is that the energy source is
coming from the post glacial relaxation of the North American Plate, either
directly or indirectly.At least it is a
known source of energy and minor continental deformation that also generates
small quakes further north from time to time.
Beyond that we are looking for
deep hidden faults, but these appear to be too shallow for that.Of course it could be simply ground settling
after gas extraction but that also seems unlikely and rather too glib.All our usual suspects are suspect
themselves.So we will have to wait for
someone to figure out what plausibly triggered these quakes.
Thousands of people across the US East Coast raced frantically
into the streets Tuesday as an earthquake sent shock waves of the kind last
seen almost exactly a decade ago on September 11.
eastern seaboard has few larger earthquakes. Many workers were bewildered --
and feared the worst -- as their desks swayed violently and their ceilings and
In a region days away from commemorating the trauma of the September
11, 2001 attacks, many immediately suspected terrorism as they raced down
stairways to parks and street corners.
Kacie Marano, who works at a think-tank two blocks away from the White
House, said that she worried that the earthquake could be something more
sinister as the alarms went off and her books fell on the floor.
"Initially, I wasn't sure it was an earthquake," she said as
she waited in a downtown park. "When we're so close to the White House,
you always have to think whether it's an earthquake or something else."
Kassandra Meholick, who works several blocks from the US Congress,
said: "I thought for sure the Capitol was bombed."
Many people in parks asked one another where they were on September 11,
2001. But unlike 10 years ago, the mood was more festive as people learned that
there was little major damage.
Several bars in Washington
smelled a business opportunity and declared earthquake happy hours for
residents who did not want to brave the commuter crowds -- or who were suddenly
given the afternoon off.
"We have a lot of people who got half the day off and we've been
busy all day," said Lauren Smith, a bartender at The Ugly Mug bar on
Capitol Hill which was offering drink specials.
Many major institutions from schools to the Smithsonian museums closed
for the day, some in hopes of easing pressure on commuters. Mass-transit
systems around Washington, Baltimore
and Philadelphia reported major delays, though
trains ran closer to schedule in the New
Julia Allman, an intern at an office in central Washington, was outside
when the earthquake struck and suddenly saw people rushing out.
"I was thinking it could be a burglary," she said.
In New York,
office worker Juan Ramos had another explanation.
"I saw my cup of coffee shaking, but I thought nothing of it. I
had just donated blood so I thought I had not recovered my equilibrium,"
At magnitude 5.8, the earthquake was the largest with an epicenter in Virginia in more than
"Just last week I was joking to someone about how we never get
earthquakes here," said Kareem Webb, who works at a Washington law firm. "At first I
thought it was trees falling or something. It was a sudden shock."
His colleague Johnnie Hill, standing in the park, kept trying to reach
his wife but the connections were shaky or he was sent straight to voice mail.
"It scared the hell out of me," Hill said. "And now the
phone service is all clogged up."
a highly international city, several residents said they had felt earthquakes
elsewhere. Millie Riley, an editor for children's publications, said she once
felt a tremor in Indonesia.
Riley said she was preparing a vegetable and salmon sandwich for
herself on Tuesday when the walls started shaking.
"I work in a building next to an excavation, so I thought there
might be a tragedy," she said.
Office workers were not the only ones affected. At a school for
children with special needs in the Washington
suburb of Rockville,
about 20 staff and families were quickly evacuated.
Several young children were visibly shaken after the three-story
building was rocked by the quake, with parents and staff trying to reassure
Residents were warned to be on alert for aftershocks. And even barring
more tremors, the East Coast is already under another threat -- Hurricane Irene
is forecast to hit later this week.