Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I didn't feel it here in my Jersey apartment, but my daughter Caitlin felt it up in her house in Western Massachusetts! She and I both know what earthquakes feel like from our years in Santa Monica, and for her the tremors went on for quite a while and shook the sink she was leaning against at the time and had the light fixture hanging from her kitchen ceiling swinging from side to side.

The science involved in this quake I find fascinating. The fact that because the geological formations of the East Coast are older than the West Coast, and much harder, that causes the shock waves to radiate out much further, which is why this 5.9 (the size of the Haiti quake) was felt all the way to Detroit and Boston (and my daughter says she heard Toronto).

Also that every ten miles from the center the power of the quake is diminished by half, though a New York reporter said that by the time it hit this area where I am—i.e. the "New York metropolitan area"—it was a 2.2, which doesn't work by my math. But it still caused many people to feel the earth shaking beneath their feet and even for some damage to occur. The good news is that the epicenter was in farmland and rural communities, so there weren't any tall buildings or great concentrations of people, so so far no deaths or critical injuries reported.

But it is a wake up call. The East Coast has nowhere near the kinds of earthquake codes and requirements for buildings and infrastructure that the West Coast does. What an opportunity for a federal jobs program, to retrofit high rise buildings and bridges and tunnels and railway tracks etc. to withstand large earthquakes. But given the rightwing Republican objection to anything that doesn't fill the pockets of corporate CEOs and the wealthiest among us, you know that's not gonna happen anytime soon.

[PS: Downgraded to a 5.8]


JIm said...
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tpw said...

My first earthquake. Very exciting. Susan, Michael, and I were eating a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory here in the DC suburbs when everything started shaking & quaking. Everybody in the entire restaurant froze. My first thought was: I never realized that there was a subway under this place.

Anonymous said...

it was a 5.9

and the reaction here in D.C. was a crock of media crap!

Robert Berner said...

Lal--As Keith Olbermann gleefully pointed out on Countdown last night, the earthquake had its epicenter in the middle of Eric Cantor's district in Virginia. Cantor had voted to reduce funding for the US Geological Survey, the very government agency trying to refine and improve the prediction of earthquakes. Olbermann also made fun of the reaction of media in NY and DC as semi-hysterical, while old LA hands like himself thought it almost an everyday event by California standards.
Bob B.

Lally said...

There's some truth to east Coasters overreacting to the quake, and like I said, i didn't even feel it and I'm wuite familiar with them after almost twenty years in L.A. (including the big one there that injured and killed and knocked down buildings near mine in Santa Monica etc.) But it is also true that scientists have pointed out that because of rock formation East Coast quakes spread out much more and impact a much bigger area, and because this quake was "shallow" as they say, it shook the ground more than quakes in Southern California do. So all in all, given the range, the more intense rocking and the unfamiliarity with earthquakes of East Coasters, it isn't surprising folks were a little shook up, or at least impressed.