Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes are stalking me

I have to admit, as someone who lived in California for 20 years and had a front row seat to the 7.2 Loma Prieta Quake in 1989, I didn't take yesterdays 5.8 here in Virginia too seriously. However, turns out that quakes here travel a lot further because the Earth's crust here is older, and much harder.

There is also more damage here with a 5.8 then there would be with a quake of that size in San Francisco. There is a lot of masonry construction here, something unheard of in California. Schools are mostly make of concrete bricks. Schools in the epicenter community of Mineral VA had already opened for the year but now will be closed until after Labor Day.

And worrisome news, inspectors in a helicopter saw cracks in the upper reaches of the Washington Monument.

On another note, yesterday's Northern Virginia quake was the fourth strongest I'd experienced. While one scared the crap out of me, the others were just interesting.

And one was amusing; the 6.2 on April 24, 1984. I was at work in the stand alone computer store then in Macys San Francisco when it struck. I was talking to two business men visiting from Utah when it hit. We all stopped talking for a moment while it went through and I remember thinking, "I need to stay calm to keep them calm." Soon it was over, and they asked if it was a big one. I assured it was no big deal.

A couple minutes later, a salesperson from small electronics walked in the doorway of the department and was waited to get my attention. When I could, I asked if he needed me. "Sorry to interrupt, but we are having a pool."

I handed him a dollar, and said "Put me down for a 5.7.".

The Utah business men were astonished. "This really is a common thing for you!"

Update :  Funny related story on Google Plus this morning by the author of the XKCD comic:

Relevant comic

Google Plus link

Randal Munroe wrote :

I once heard a story (originally told by Kevin Young) about Gerson Goldhaber, who was a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He was talking on the phone with another physicist at SLAC near Stanford University near the end of the day on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. The SLAC physicist suddenly interrupted with, "Gerson, I have to go! There's a very big earthquake happening!" and then hung up. So Gerson stepped out into a group of people in the hall, made a big show of yawning and checking his watch, then said, "Aren't we about due for an earthquake?" Before anyone could respond, the Loma Prieta earthquake reached Berkeley, and he became a legend.
My best friend from college is from Mineral, VA, a town of a few hundred people and one stoplight, which was at the epicenter of yesterday's quake. A few years ago, he moved to Sendai, Japan, where he got an apartment just a few miles from the coast. Fortunately, he survived the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Last I heard from him, he was moving back home. He really can't catch a break.

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