Exciting lunch break…


In 1989 I was sitting 26 miles from the epicentre of the 5.6 magnitude Newcastle earthquake in Australia.

Today I was nearing the end of my lunch hour in an empty cubicle, enjoying the natural light coming in from a huge window beside me, and deep into the Trylle Trilogy book I’m reading.  At first I thought the rattling was a truck coming into the loading dock beneath me then it got louder and more jolting and it seemed as though people upstairs were rolling out a lead floor.   Oh, I know what this is……
Time to get away from the window and stand in the doorway.

People around me laughed later and said “you were so calm”  – really I was just annoyed to have my reading interrupted!

I work in Virginia,  a smidgen closer to this epicenter than DC – things fell off the wall in our office, light covers came down from the ceiling but no-one was hurt.  The metro system was totally messed up this afternoon as the trains slowed to 15 mph while tracks were checked,  some station entrances were closed,  platforms overflowed and there were massive delays.

After reading some local neighbourhood blogs while at work I was expecting to come home and find the home alarm blaring – but nope it was still set.  If I hadn’t known there was an earthquake I would’ve thought that someone had come into the house and just moved things around to annoy me!    There were a few things thrown off shelves on the ground floor and some ornaments were facing the wall instead of outwards.  Upstairs a picture had come off the wall, photos were lying face down, books had fallen off a book shelf,  my perfume bottles had fallen over and one rower out of a little bamboo boat was lying on the floor.

Now we wait to see if Hurricane Irene comes our way……




36 responses

  1. I was wondering if you were okay! I’m glad you and your home escaped harm. The New York Times claimed it was felt in NYC, but my older daughter said she didn’t feel so much as a wobble in her chair out in Manhattan. They also mentioned that the White House, Pentagon and other federal buildings were evacuated so they could check for structural damage—I don’t suppose they made those buildings earthquake-proof as California now requires all public buildings to be.

    Speaking of which, there was a massive sneer in San Francisco when news of the Virginia earthquake broke. Many people said 5.9 was for pikers, though they’re forgetting that during our last 5.9 quake, several people were killed by collapsing buildings and falling heavy equipment. I wouldn’t want to sit through anything bigger than a 5, but after the massive earthquakes we had out here, many Californians have become earthquake snobs. But not me!

    • Yeah 5.9 doesn’t sound very serious to those who have them all the time and are prepared with properly constructed buildings but the “only” 5.6 one in Newcastle killed 13 people, hospitalized 160 and damaged 50,000 buildings (300 had to be demolished). I think anything that makes buildings shake is a bit scary! I will admit to laughing at some reactions of the people I saw interviewed on TV tonight though.

  2. There was an earthquake in southern Illinois in 1987 that I rode out on the living room couch. It was a most interesting experience. I’m glad most everything was fine in your world although I suspect getting home was quite the challenge from what you describe. Poor little rowing guy… 😉

    • The Newcastle one I was lying down having a nap – like you on the couch I found it an “interesting” experience. My ex husband and sons were sitting on a cement boat ramp and it cracked right beside them – the boys thought the whole thing was pretty exciting. Personally I like my earth to stand still.

  3. While originally laughing at people’s reactions online, I have to admit respect once I realized the 9/11 assumption & fear… especially with the 10th anniversary approaching. Plus, we SoCal-ers reaction a thousand times sillier if a drop of rain falls from the sky!

    • Yeah, I think NY and DC are going to be a little nervous over the next couple of weeks. I’d say that more than 80% of the people in my office had never felt an earthquake before (there was a 3.6 one last year but it was before dawn so most people, even those close to it, slept through it). A couple of our jobsites were doing demolition work and at first thought their explosives had gone haywire.

  4. Yes, it all evens out – out here we embarrass ourselves over a tiny spit of rain, but seem rather serene when it comes to earthquakes. What with my vast age and all, I’ve lived through plenty of earthquakes…I’m used to them.

    But to have one out East, and from what I hear with the submerged rock undamaged and a more efficient conduit for trembles (Califiornia rock is cracked and full of faults) – all I can say is that I am glad you are OK…and good God is the perfume OK???

    • The manservant is a Californian (and was in Chile last year when they had their big one) so he is a bit blase about trembles too. It was weird to see my perfumes lying down – there was probably a domino reaction on my dresser with one taking the others down – no leaks thank God!

  5. So sorry your reading was so rudely interrupted. What was mother nature thinking anyway!
    Hey, I’ve never experienced an earthquake and quite honestly would be extremely happy to live my life out without experiencing one. What a scary feeling that must be to have literally everything around you shaking. I can’t even imagine. I’m so glad you are alright!

    • There is something really unnerving about a moving landscape. We take for granted that things are going to be stable unless we deliberately seek out a thrill ride. I can go without quakes and rides I think 🙂

  6. My daughter and I were sitting on the couch in the living room at first wondering what was going on – I thought it was somebody up on the roof cleaning gutters or something – and then when we realised it was an earthquake, thinking “Oh, this is interesting!” By the time we started thinking that maybe we should move to a safer place it was dying away. Nothing fell off shelves or anything like that; maybe if things had started moving inside the house we might have got more worried. She lived in Japan for a couple of years so has experienced many earthquakes worse than yesterday’s, and I’d been through two previously in Australia.

    • It’s funny how that first sound is like someone on a tin roof – that’s what I remembered from the Newcastle one and once the jiggling started I knew exactly what was happening. It lasted about 45 seconds in our office – we never left the building but the day care center across the road took all their kids out and stood them in the shadow of a church! Given that spires fell off the Cathedral that probably wasn’t the wisest place to stand. I hope your daughter is having a lovely visit – it must be nice for you to have her here.

    • My travels have always been on stable ground – I don’t think I’d like to shake away from home 🙂 LOL the book …. yes, I finished it last night. It’s “young adult” fiction and I’m quite caught up in it – half way through the 2nd book now.

  7. Interesting! It always makes such a difference when you have previous experience. I’m soooo happy you’re okay and everybody (more of less) is fine.

    Thank you for describing your experience and sharing with us. In the Midwest, at least where I am, we never felt a thing and we haven’t had a major earthquake here since before I was born. Our New Madrid fault is one of those that they scare little kids with stories of what happened years ago. They also followed it up with it would be worse now with more people, more buildings and buildings no longer made of 100% wood or sod!

    • Thank you MT. Friends with a timber frame house suffered cracks in their plaster walls yesterday – I didn’t find any obvious new cracks in our house. Similar to those scare stories of the New Madrid Fault I feel the same about the San Andreas Fault. I never fly through LA without wondering if I might be at the airport when the “big one” comes through.

  8. Glad that you are okay Emjay. Mother Nature has certainly been active lately. It sounds like you stayed calm and knew what to do. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the hurricane blows out to sea.

    • Thank you monsoon. At the moment it looks like we might just get some heavy rains from the hurricane. There is a big dedication ceremony for the new MLK Memorial on Sunday and the organizers are keeping a nervous eye on the forecast as they are expecting massive crowds in DC this w/end.

    • Tonight I heard an official say that they always recommend a “stay in place” procedure first but of course humans’ instinct is to just run – especially if it’s a new & scary experience. The roads were clogged with an early rush hour as people just hit them to get home. Of course my office stayed open until 5pm as if nothing had happened.

    • Thank you GOM. Eleven years of going off to work here I’ve never walked out the door thinking “I wonder if there will be an earthquake today” …. This morning I wondered “will there be an aftershock today?” Weird!

  9. How exciting!!! You know I love a good earth shaker! I am also glad you are okay. I phoned my son to ask was he and his okay and got “I was at work”. (man voice with flat disinterested tone) LOL – typical man.

    • LOL – typical young man! Absolutely, I imagine you being the equivalent of a tornado-chaser when it comes to geological “events” – they’re harder to chase though as they just seem to happen.

      • Yes, that is true, although I miss a good hurricane and I could go see one right now! Masha was visiting me in 2008 when one struck (that one had weakened to a tropical storm). He was impressed with the amount of rain and that the street had turned into a river.

    • The weekend seems to be getting more “interesting” with each news report. I had a good laugh today when a new (foreign) employee asked me if today’s storm was the hurricane! He might be in for a bit of a surprise on Saturday.

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