Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake!

Special Edition Update:

At 1:51 pm yesterday my office building in Stamford, CT began to sway. It was an odd sensation, a bit like being on a boat with a gently rocking motion. It lasted for a good 15 seconds and my brain was wondering -this is very odd, what's going on? It probably took 10 seconds before I realized, oh, this is what an earthquake feels like. A co-worker from Japan immediately jumped under her desk but most of us did not. I thought about it but figured the motion was so gentle I doubted there was going to be any harm. I was right but it was a poor decision. I should have gone for cover and not worried about how silly that might look.

I immediately called my wife on her cell to tell her. She had felt nothing in a restaurant on ground level some 30 miles away. So I figured the earthquake was local. There was nothing on Google news for the first 5 minutes but then a news alert put the 5.8 earthquake 360 miles away in Mineral, Virginia. Wow.
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/se082311a.html

I tried to call my wife back with this news but the Cell phone system was overwhelmed and there was no dial tone at all. This cell "outage" lasted for about 15-30 minutes before she was able to call me. I did call home out of curiosity and was able to reach my answering machine. This is one reason we keep paying for the land line at home - it works when cell phones don't.

Since the event many have wondered, why did we feel the quake from so far away? The East Coast is 100 times less active than California, but an earthquake east of the Rockies is typically felt over an area ten times larger than a similar quake on the west coast. And since most East Coast buildings are not earthquake proof, the damages can be very wide spread. In California the ground is very fractured, when a quake wave hits a fracture it is deflected or absorbed. Think of a pond wave hitting a branch. On the East Coast we have very old bedrock that is quite solid and unfractured. It rings like a bell when hit with nothing to stop the quake waves. There are reports of the quake being felt in Canada!

Bottom Line

According to Matthew Herper at Forbes.com,
Just because quakes are less frequent in the east does not mean they are less dangerous, because building codes are less strict. Seismologists believe New York City is past due for a big quake — the last major one was a 5.2 quake centered in New York harbor off of Brooklyn in 1884. (See: Yes Virginia, There Are Earthquakes On The East Coast.)

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