Where Were You When the Earthquake Hit?



BY MARK MATHOSIAN

 

Do you recall where you were the day Winston-Salem and surrounding cities shook from an earthquake? To refresh your memory, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter near Mineral, Virginia, hit the east coast on August 23, 2011.

That afternoon at about 1:52 pm I was standing near the kitchen sink in my home in Advance transferring a casserole from a pan to Tupperware.  The television on a nearby wooden and metal hutch was tuned to a news channel reporting that Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan compound was just invaded by rebel forces. The volume on the TV was low.

Suddenly, the floor trembled and I felt wobbly. I heard a low rumbling outside and thought that perhaps a tornado touched down. However, the sky was clear with no breeze so I quickly ruled out the tornado theory. As I stood attentively in the kitchen, I heard the metal frame of the hutch creak as if someone was shaking it or shut a drawer hard, causing it to rattle. Since I was the only one in the house this simply couldn’t be. At the same time I also heard our grandfather clock in the living room making musical sounds as if someone was tinkering with its chime rods. I walked to the hutch and put my hand on a shelf trying to figure out why it was shaking.  I wasn’t sure what was going on, but something was definitely not right.

I turned up the volume on the television and just as I did a scrolling red news banner popped on the screen reporting that a major earthquake had just hit the east coast of the U.S. A reporter said tremors were felt from as far north as Rhode Island to as far south as North Carolina. Residents from North Carolina were calling in and e-mailing the station reporting that they felt the earthquake.

The reporter said the White House was evacuated and people were just starting to come to grips with the fact that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake had just hit.  Locally, the quake was reported on WXII 12 with links for live updates. The Winston-Salem Journal also reported that while we had “shakes and shimmers, no damage was reported in Forsyth County.” However, they also reported a “barrage of cellphone calls” disrupted service and that emergency officials received several 911 calls. The earthquake caused some buildings in downtown Winston-Salem to be evacuated including the 18-story GMAC building. Many people ran outside in fear after feeling tremors.  One woman reported the chandelier in her Clemmons condo swayed and she and her husband were in disbelief that this could actually be an earthquake. Another person said her house shook for 30 seconds.

Since this was my first earthquake ever, I was excited and called my wife Kathy who was in Florida. She hadn’t yet heard the news. Kathy later informed me that my daughter-in-law in Apex, NC, called her right after I did to ask about our well-being and the status of our home.  Kathy told her all was well and I sent my son in Apex a text telling him about the quake.  He texted back, “Cool.” He said his customers were also e-mailing and texting about the earthquake.

I guess we could call this cool, because fortunately, it was an extremely minor earthquake in our area. It was more scary than anything else. However, I doubt we would think it was cool if we had received more damage. At my home, the shaking lasted for about 20 seconds or less. It happened very quickly and then it was over.  Later in the week we learned this was the largest Virginia earthquake since 1897. Interestingly, North Carolina has been hit by larger earthquakes, with some causing damage.  Statistically, this happened 22 times from 1732 to the present. The last damaging earthquake occurred in 1981 in Henderson County.  If you are interested in learning more about this subject, Google “earthquakes and North Carolina.” For now, my main questions are these, “Will there be another earthquake?” If there is, “Where will I be when it happens?” I suspect you may ask yourself the same questions. That’s it for now, best wishes until next month.


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