I used to feel earthquakes two or three times a week when I was 4 and 5 years old, living in the Anchorage area. I still remember the morning, when I was quite young, when I woke up to find the snow outside coated in a blanket of gray volcanic ash from Mt. St. Augustine in the inlet somewhere to the south of us. That was an earthquake maker, for sure.
(I think my mother still has a jar full of that ash saved somewhere with the newspaper clipping about it.)
So when southern Ohio felt the tremor Tuesday, I knew what was up.
“Are they doing something to the building again?” was a coworker’s first response.
“That, boys and girls, is an earthquake,” I said. “And I give it about a 4.0-4.2 here.”
I had learned to gauge the magnitude of earthquakes rather accurately as a small child. However, the seismograph at SSU was offline at the time of this event, with no way to confirm the local magnitude with precise accuracy—so don’t consider my guess anything more than that.
I was in Louisville, Ky., in the early spring of 2008 when the last memorable earthquake was felt in this region. That one was centered along the New Madrid fault in Missouri with about a 4.5 in magnitude. I was working at the front reception desk in the business offices of Churchill Downs at the time. The chandelier in the lobby shook and my desk chair swayed a little.
This recent quake was 1 km deep in the ground, with a magnitude 5.9 at its epicenter in Virginia. People felt it all along the eastern coast of the U.S. and into the midwest. The United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) website, which lists all earthquake activity worldwide, showed nothing anywhere in the region in the past 30 days until this afternoon.
As someone who has experienced earthquakes that rattled windows and knocked things out of kitchen cabinets, this seems like little more than a momentary distraction. It’s just cool! But it also reminds me how the planet is still in a state of constant change.
We think in terms of human lifespans—in hours, days, and years—while the earth changes on a scale of millions of years. But every now and then, Mother Nature does something like this to shake us up.
Some people think of the recent destruction in Japan and fear the worst. Most of us simply text our friends with “Did you feel that?” or similar messages. But all in all, it is a bit unsettling to feel the most stable thing in our lives—the earth itself—move under our feet.
There’s an element of excitement, concern and wonder all at once about it. I choose, instead of thinking of it as how uncertain the world can be, to view it as showing what an adventure life is.
HEATHER DUMAS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org.