Having just posted an examiner article, I took a break and settled into my comfiest chair—and promptly fell asleep. But not for long. My house shook me awake—and it wasn’t because the roofers had come and dropped something really heavy up there as I thought.
Oh, no, something far bigger came my way last Tuesday, August 23rd, at about 1:15 p.m. That’s the day Pennsylvania borrowed a page out of California’s playbook, experiencing a 5.8 magnitude quake that lasted up to 45 seconds and sent lots of folks scurrying. Its epicenter was in Mineral, Virginia, and made itself felt all the way up the east coast to Canada.
And, as it passed through Montgomery County, the court house in Norristown was jolted, too. There the windows rattled, tables shook, and some chairs even moved. So unexpected; so unusual. As Second Deputy of Courts Linda Sulock put it, “I never experienced one in my entire life and never want to be closer than I was right now. Just this little bit was frightening. It’s not what you expect on the east coast. California, yeah, but not here in Pennsylvania.”
Actually, though, this area has been shaken before, dating all the way back to the 1700’s. A couple were also reported in the 1800’s—one that was called “severe” and another that caused “a great and unusual swell on the Delaware River.” More currently was a moderate quake in September of 1961 that was centered in the Lehigh Valley and another in December of that year that jolted northeast Philly and its suburbs. A few other disturbances have followed and now this.
With our limited earthquake experience, an unofficial Blue Bell survey found that, while everyone was familiar with the Richter scale, no one had ever heard of MMS, which is used to more exactly determine the magnitude or strength of a quake. Moreover, while folks knew that the higher the number, the stronger the quake, no one could give specifics, so here they are:
· 9.0 and above ~ Causes complete devastation and large-scale loss of life
· 8.0 ~ Very few buildings stay up. Bridges fall down. Underground pipes burst. Railroad rails bend. Large rocks move. Smaller objects are tossed into the air. Some objects are swallowed up by the earth.
· 7.0 ~ It’s hard to keep your balance. The ground cracks. Roads shake. Weak buildings fall down. Other buildings are badly damaged.
· 6.0 ~ Pictures can fall off the walls. Furniture moves. In some buildings, walls may crack.
· 5.0 ~ If you are in a car, it may rock. Glasses and dishes may rattle. Windows may break.
· 4.0 ~ Buildings shake a little. It feels like a truck is passing by your house.
· 3.0 ~ You may notice this quake if you are sitting still or upstairs in a house. A hanging object, like a model airplane, may swing.
· 2.0 ~ Trees sway. Small ponds ripple. Doors swing slowly, but you can’t tell that an earthquake is to blame.
· 1.0 ~ Earthquakes this small happen below ground; you can’t feel them.
As a side note, the 2010 Haitian quake came in at 7.0, while the one in Japan last March that triggered the devastating tsunami measured 8.9.
Meanwhile, since quakes are a reality the world over—and we’re not immune, either—it makes sense that all of us—our kids, too—learn more about them with the help of the Internet and such sites as . . .
· http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/kids ~ Offers information, puzzles, games, facts, pictures and much more.
· http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/web/earthqu.html ~ Offers a list of research and informational earthquake sites for all ages and interests.
· http://tlc.discovery.com/convergence/quakes/interactives/makeaquake.html ~ Has visitors choose the conditions, then hit the “Begin Quake” button, and watch a building shake, crack, and maybe even fall over.
· http://www.ceri.memphis.edu/perc/ ~ This public earthquake resource center offers everything from information and myths about quakes, science fair ideas, stories, and so much more.
And speaking of the unusual, within days of each other, Montgomery County first took a hit from that quake and then Hurricane Irene came calling and dumped about five inches of rain on us—some of which found its way into my basement!