Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Earthquake

And the earthquake . . .

We are 30 miles from the epicenter, so we got the full surround-sound experience.

The house shook quite a bit.  You could hear this thing.  A deep rumbling noise.  The feeling was rather like being on a train going over rough track and swaying some.  Stuff jittered and moved.

I took a second or two trying to decide whether this was an earthquake, (get outside) or a nuclear strike on Washington,(duck and cover,)  decided on earthquake and yelled for the kids (my own and five friends)  to get out.

They were all -- 'Get in a doorway' -- which was good enough practice as that went, but this seemed to be a long rumbly one rather than a 'house coming down around us right now' one, so I got them outdoors.
I was so proud of them for being knowledgeable and wise.

It lasted a while.  I think I could have recited the whole Gettysburg Address if I had kept up a fast clip.

This is my -- I had to think about this a while -- third good shaker of a quake and my fifth quake if you count a couple little bitty tremors.  And it's in Virginia.  I didn't feel any quakes when I lived in California.
 Go figger.

I didn't even have stuff shake off the shelves.  This is in part because I do not have shelves full of breakable stuff.  I have books. The TV slid across the old wood chest I keep it on but did not fall over and break, which is a pity since it is the TV-that-will-not-die and dates from the Seventies and has tubes in it.

My friend who owns an antique shop just about ground zero says a lot of little brickabrack suicided.

The DH  was outside working on the motorcycle.  The shaking made it hard for him to keep his footing.  He said the walls of the house moved and flexed in an interesting manner.

 I have not been down to look at the foundation or checked the chimney.  These will no doubt tell us if they are no longer tight in their own good time by (a) flooding or (b) setting the house on fire.  

The epicenter is 8 miles from the North Anna nuclear power plant.  I am assured there is no important structural damage.
This removes all nervousness.  The government would not lie to me.

I did not feel a sense of foreboding and would have been of no use whatsoever to my primitive tribe in warning them of impending danger.
I did feel rather odd afterwards.
But then, one would.  I wasn't scared, but my chest felt tight and my stomach was unsettled.
You cannot possibly be interested in the details.  Really. 

The animals did not act oddly beforehand.
They are obviously less sensitive than Chinese chickens.
I have long suspected this.

The cat was deeply distressed, however, when it struck and went streaking out of the house to jump around in the leaves out back, scared of the way the ground was acting.

The dog slept through it.

We've had a few little aftershocks.


  1. I'm from SoCal so I have lots of good earthquake stories. One of my favorites is the night all four of our cats sat in a circle, shoulders all touching and stared down at the floor. A few hours later we had a big earthquake. Kind of neat/creepy.

  2. Joanna,
    I am on your fb as Carol Crawley (real name. Following your blog under my pseudonym. The quake yesterday traveled an incredible distance. I am in northern Delaware exactly 2 hrs from DC. The ground beneath me swayed. I have felt minor tremors. This was a definite moving of the earth beneath my feet. It took a few seconds to realize it was not a) me fainting, b)one of the power plants along the Delaware River exploding or the ever present c) the northeast being attacked by terrorists.
    On the UP side, I had just finished writing my part of a love scene between two characters based in Virginia. Literally. Just. finished. I am convinced this is a positive sign for the manuscript!
    Glad your house and family are still standing.

  3. Glad to hear your and yours are OK and glad to have the description of the earthquake. Never know when that will come in handy.

    My DH grew up in the California desert, and has some interesting stories of the earthquakes. Nothing awful, but fascinating. My in-laws told of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. They just happened to be awake, so saw the whole thing. Very dramatic.

    My DH says he will take an earthquake over a hurricane any day. I've never been in an earthquake, but would prefer neither. Do you have a preference?

  4. Jo, far from the epicenter in Vermont, the tremors were strong enough at our 5th floor offices to persuade folks into the hallways. Since this is a publishing house, we only leave our offices to retrieve something from the photocopier. We stood in our doorways. Folks wandering around at ground level didn't feel it. I'm multiplying times 20 to try and imagine what you experienced.

    I hope your house has not sustained any structural damage. I keep thinking of the tourists inside the Washington monument. It must have been dramatic.

  5. Glad everything's ok up there, Jo. Everyone here at work in Raleigh, NC felt it, EXCEPT me. I was walking down the hall and didn't even notice.

  6. Hi Tara --

    It was a small earthquake, but we get so few . . .

  7. Hi Annie --

    I worry about the Washington Monument. It was NOT intended to sway in a 5.9 -er

  8. Earthquake . . . I've been in a 5.9 now. More interesting than scary in this particular case. I had the sense that this was a one-minute time frame where the right decisions had to be made, fast. But this is very different from being in a truly destructive earthquake. I don't make the mistake of thinking this is a 'big' one like Japan or Alaska. Hurricanes are awesome -- using the original meaning of the word. Very strong. Very beautiful. I've been in two direct hits -- Camille, Hugo and Hazel -- and on the edge of a few others. Never seen a tornado.

  9. Hi E.D. Walker --I love that story. I can even hear the cats talking it over, back and forth.

    "It's coming."
    "Ya wanta run?"
    "Where? No place is safe."
    "And there's food here."
    "Right. This is the place with food."
    "Might as well stay."

  10. Hi Carol -- It's interesting. Folks experience the earthquake differently. For me it was a rumble in everything. For some folks -- the DH, fr'instance -- a swaying of the ground. And yes . . . my first thought was that some terrible event had just taken place, not earthquake. I mean -- Virginia. Earthquake. Just does not compute.

  11. I liked the cats talking to each other!

  12. Hi Lynne --

    They do, y'know. No doubt about it.

  13. Anonymous2:47 PM

    In Camille? Wow. You move around! I'm from Mississippi and have family all over the coast from Texas to Florida, so hurricanes I know and tornadoes, too.

    Earthquake. Just a few. Not too bad, but we could have a bad one where I am living now, outside Memphis.

    Even though your earthquake was 5.8, it was shallow and I'm sure it was scary. I wouldn't want to feel that.

  14. Jo -- since I want you to continue writing for a very long time, as a life-long California resident, I will tell you that the LAST thing you do in an earthquake is go outside when things are still shaking. Get way from the windows and get yourself under a sturdy table or in a doorway.

  15. Hi Melinda --

    We do indeed move about. One of the quakes I remember is the Tabas, Iran quake. I was far enough away it wasn't much of a jolt.

    Memphis is another of those odd fault zones that could strike with some force. No place, jo says portentously, is safe.

  16. Hi Carolyn --

    In defense of getting outside . . . I don't have any buildings nearby to fall on anybody. Just trees.

    I read stuff like:


    and about all this tells me is WE'RE DOOMED WHATEVER WE DO, which is refreshingly straightforward in a complex world . . .

  17. And now Hurricane Irene is preparing to hit the east coast. Our governor is cautioning folks to buy bottled water and batteries, which I think is an overreaction since Vermont is the only landlocked New England state. But what do I know? I will say it's already raining and kind of windy here.

    I find it odd that bottled water is always first on the emergency list when we're expecting a deluge.

    For those of you in states with a coast, stay safe. I'm not much prone to apocalyptic thinking (except as a fun parlor sport), but an earthquake and a hurricane the same week?

  18. Jo, I'm glad that you and yours are ok.

    I didn't feel it where I am, but I've felt small ones before. It has been more of a "ok, I can check 'been in a minor earthquake' off of my list." Your earthquake (& the others) get a bigger checkmark than mine.

    I hope that this tremblor hasn't put a crimp or caused a bump in your day to day "fun"....

  19. Hi Skittles --

    One should always have a check-off list.

    On mine, there still is -- I really want to see the Northern Lights.
    Well, the Southern Lights would do as well.

  20. Hi Annie --

    I'm worried about the folks in NYC. I think about high winds and all that glass. Parts of the city are not far above sea level, I think.

  21. There was an earthquake in Eastern U.S.? Where have I been? Glad it wasn't so severe where you are.

  22. Hi Sherry --

    Just a little one. 5.9. But folks apparently felt it as a tremor all up and down the coast.

    And we just don't HAVE earthquakes here. You can go centuries without an earthquake in the mid Atlantic states. We're not engineered for it.