Earthquake shakes up DC!

Aug 23, 2011

As you may or may not have heard on the interwebbytubes, the DC metroplex was rocked by an earthquake that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale this afternoon and was felt as far away as Ontario, Canada. Various and sundry other locales reported the quake as well, from Pittsburgh, PA to Tampa, FL, to Brooklyn and New York, NY. An aftershock measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale was reported a little while later (I don't know how long). This is the second to hit the area in the last couple of years; the quake that occurred in July of 2010 is the only other one I know of that comes to mind (though doubtless other people will and comment about this).

My building at $WORK shook this afternoon for something like thirty or forty seconds. My first guess would have been double that time, but, upon reflection, it probably wasn't that long. At first I heard the rattling sound of ductwork and conduits vibrating in their brackets as I walked through the hallway back to the lab, and then noticed that some of them had broken loose and were violently shaking back and forth. For a split second I wondered if the HVAC system on the roof had finally decided to go on a rampage and do all of us in. The next split second's rumination consisted of "Holy shit! Earthquake!"

Another cow-orker and I nearly collided as we sprinted for what we thought might make good cover (namely, the next hall over). Scant seconds after the shaking stopped we asked ourselves (rather vigorously) what the hell had happened, only to have our conversation cut off by the emergency bells in the building sounding. I suppose it says something about my priorities in life that I sprinted back up to my office to throw Windbringer, my iPod, keyring, and cellphone into my backpack and then headed out of the building as fast as my legs would carry me and to the nearest field. Say what you want about me and my tech, but if I have to work from home for a day or two I need the kit to do it.

For what it's worth I didn't see much physical damage from the quake. A few CDs were scattered on my desk and I saw a few spilled soft drinks in the halls. Not everyone was so lucky, however: some cars were crushed in Tyson's Corner, Virginia and the National Cathedral downtown reported damage to some of the spires. Damage reports elsewhere are still trickling in, you just have to sort them out of the lack of empathy and compassion that inevitably follows hot on the heels of things like unexpected natural phenomena. After word came down that campus was closed and all non-emergency personnel had to leave, we piled into our cars and headed for wherever we needed to go. I got home (to our new home, incidentally) in record time. Lyssa said that she'd felt the quake at our place in Maryland and a few others reported the quake from Dupont Circle, Arlington, Pentagon City, and parts farther away up and down the eastern seaboard. A nuclear power plant owned by Dominion Power just fifteen miles from the epicenter in Mineral, Virginia automatically shut itself down when the quake happened. True to the nature of just-in-time manufacturing in the twenty-first century t-shirts appeared scant minutes after the quake was over.

More information as it comes.