Local earthquake – not a bomb

We had a little excitement yesterday afternoon when we thought Washington, DC had been hit by a bomb.

In this post-911 era, loud explosions trigger amazing chains of thought.

I was talking on the phone in my workshop doorway when a loud noise drowned out the sound of my machines and the house began to shake. We rushed out of the shop to see what was happening and saw puzzled neighbors looking in all directions while the noise and shaking continued.

Since there was no flare in the sky to the northeast of us, I breathed a sigh of relief and called out, “It’s only an earthquake. I’ve seen these before!” I could hear the house rattling as the quake continued to make the ground shudder.

We were out in the driveway with a neighbor by then and I got several disbelieving looks, but I persisted. “Feel the after shocks. They may be going on for several minutes.” Sure enough, the ground continued to tremble fitfully for some time.

I was on the phone with a car dealer in Charlottesville and I could hear him going through the same scenario at his end of the line.

The quake epicenter occurred in Goochland which is 28 miles east southeast of us in south central Virginia.

United States Geological Survey spokesman Carolyn Bell said the magnitude 4.5 earthquake occurred shortly before 4 p.m. “People felt it all the way from the southern part of Pennsylvania to the northern part of Georgia,” she said Wednesday.

Feeling the tremors from an earthquake that occurred more than 100 miles away is not uncommon in the East. Bell said that is because there are not as many faults, and also because the rock structure isn’t as broken up as it is on the country’s West Coast, the earthquake will be felt for longer distances.

While California gets all the credit, earthquakes aren’t new to Virginia. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the state has had more than 160 of them since 1977, 16 percent of which were felt. Recorded quakes here date back nearly 230 years.

I had lived through the Northridge and Loma Prieta quakes but they were expected in California. This quake yesterday surprised me. It’s the second one this year.

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