Earthquake!

Posted By BrokenClaw on August 25, 2011

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, around 2:00 PM, we experienced an earthquake in Maryland. I was working alone on my computer on the 3rd floor of the hospital when I saw my monitor shake and felt a vibration in the floor. My first thought was that someone was wheeling a heavy cart down the hallway. When I noticed the Venetian blinds shaking, I stood up. By now I could tell that this more than just a vibration in the floor. And it wasn’t a quick shock from a nearby explosion. The entire hospital was shaking, and it continued to shake as I walked out into the hall.

The emergency system, which normally responds to a fire alarm, had already kicked in, with the hall doors closing automatically. I could also see personnel scurrying about. As I walked by the Outpatient department, one of the nurses came out with a bewildered look on her face and asked me, “What’s happening?” Not wanting to alarm the patients behind her, I just whispered back to her, “I think it’s an earthquake.”

Indeed it was an earthquake. We soon learned that it was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake centered in rural Virginia, felt up and down the Eastern seaboard.

The local TV stations broke in with Special Report broadcasting and stayed on the air until the regular network news at 6 PM. They really didn’t have much to report. Fortunately, here in Maryland there was no widespread damage and no casualties. All they could do was show live video reports from downtown Baltimore of buildings being evacuated and workers being sent home. For the most part, all they could do was recap what had happened — that Maryland had felt the shock of an earthquake in Virginia — and warn of aftershocks. Public transportation was halted until authorities could assess potential damage to rails and bridges.

Over the next 24 hours, I heard many people interviewed on TV, who were, more or less, poking fun at the people and media in Maryland for making such a big deal out of a little tremor.

The fact of the matter is, it was a big deal. Maryland gets mostly imperceptible earthquakes every few years. But a tremor like the one on Tuesday is a once in a century event. Most people in this area have never felt one. Like me, when it began to rumble, people around here had all kinds of thoughts about what it could be, but an earthquake was certainly not the first thought that popped in their heads.

The severity of the situation is all relative. I remember a few years ago when Atlanta, Georia, got a few inches of snow. To them, it was a blizzard. When a dusting of snow fell in Los Angeles, it shut down the interstates and created a 30 mile backup. Imagine what it would be like if Los Angeles ever got a real snowfall. The city would shut down. The TV stations would have live coverage of people trying to drive in the snow. They’d have reports from hospitals of how many people slipped and fell. They’d probably have an expert from AAA come on to show people how to brush snow off of their car windows.

The bottom line is, you can never really prepare for something that’s never happened. And it isn’t always the best option to try to prepare for every possibility.

You can be assured that you’ll never run out of gas,
If you stop and top off at every station you pass.
— by BrokenClaw

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