Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Feel the Earth Move

Well, of course all the buzz yesterday was about the 5.8--6.0 earthquake the area experienced yesterday, perhaps the strongest ever in Virginia (although Thomas Jefferson predated the Richter Scale so I wonder how historians determine the strength of earthquakes before more scientific measures came along. Maybe accounts of damage to the tobacco crop). The strongest previous quake in Virginia was a 5.8 in 1897. In spite of what my students used to think, I did not experience that one myself.  Neither did I know William Shakespeare personally. I think your momma did, though.
I was on my deck working on extending part of an extension ladder for easier access to my attic (it's complicated) when I heard a rumbling like the furnace was going to explode. The deck swayed back and forth two to three inches for about 45 seconds. Ace builder Don Libeau rebuilt the deck several years ago after it partially peeled off the house on one Fourth of July (with Becky standing on it). If it were not for Don's overbuilding I would have landed in the back yard. The swaying stopped and I thought, the Marines must have some big new guns (we can hear explosions and such from the base at Quantico about 23 miles away).Then I figured that it was an earthquake.
My neighbor came out and asked if I had felt anything.  I replied that I did and that I thought it was an earthquake.  I stepped inside the kitchen area and turned on the TV. As the World Turns (or something similar) was airing, so I switched on WTOP radio, an all-news station in D.C. They were reporting a magnitude 5.6 quake with the epicenter in Mineral, VA.
 I tried to call Becky but the phone lines were loaded up and I couldn't get through. A few minutes later she called me to report that she was in her office on the third floor of the church and thought the furnace was rumbling (brilliant minds think alike) at first and then that the Marines were setting off ordnance (after nearly 37 years of marriage we frequently experience mind melds). The 'quake knocked one of her African animal carvings off the shelf and she knew it was an earthquake then and evacuated the building.  After a few minutes she went back.
I was interested that texting worked, and I soon heard from Amy who reported that she sheltered in the laundry room which is a small space with large metal objects all around.  Good idea that, and she could have clean clothes for the apocalypse. She also had the foresight to schedule a massage at 2 PM, fifteen minutes after the event.  Good going!
Alyssa texted to report that she worked in a fortress at SRA. Fortress of Solitude, maybe.  She sent an account of her reaction and that of a colleague:
The earthquake started, and like most everyone else, I thought it was something else.  Specifically, I asked my coworker Kelly if she also felt a herd of buffalo running under her desk.  She said yes, and we agreed that it was an earthquake.  Then we wondered what we should do.  "Google 'What to do in an earthquake'?" I suggested.
 "I think we're supposed to stand in a doorway," she replied.  So we stood in the doorway.  
"In case we die, I love you," I joked with her.  
"I love you too," she replied.  
(We have known each other for about three weeks because she just started with the company, but it was coworker love at first sight.)  
Then we stood there for a while while the rumbling continued. 
 With nothing else to do while standing in the doorway, we resorted to Your Momma jokes.  "I didn't realize they let your momma jump on the roof!"  
Our hilarious joke fest was interrupted by my boss, emerging from the men's room and exclaiming "THIS is what happens when you make me mad!" and laughing maniacally down the hallway.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

So everyone was accounted for and I took a nap.  I've been checking Facebook where a lot of people shared their experiences. That worked. It's a brave new world out there. I'm glad no one seemed to be badly hurt in the earthquake and damage was minimal. I'm also glad I don't live in California. I don't think I could take it.

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