Earthquakes and Hurricanes — These Aren’t a Few of my Favorite Things

The last week has been pretty exciting in the mid Atlantic region:

Tuesday, August 23 at approximately 1:51pm: 80 miles to the south of DC, in Mineral, VA there occurred an earthquake that registered 5.8 on the Richter Scale. Folks said they felt it as far north as Boston, MA. Like most other businesses in the DC area, all employees at my agency were sent home until the structural integrity of our office building could be ascertained. It took 2 hours to finally leave my office’s parking garage. The ride home was pretty quick, considering how long it took to actually get on the road.

My desk area after the earthquake

My desk after the earthquake – view #1

We went back to work the next day, since our building is only 4 years old and well constructed. I think I speak for most of my 5000 colleagues, we were literally and figuratively shaken by the experience – most of us haven’t ever felt an earthquake much larger than a 3 in this area.

What does a 3 feel like? Windows rattle as if a large truck was rumbling by your house. This was not what we felt, or heard. For me, it started as a low, steady rumble that eventually made my floor feel like a giant wave ride, heaving up and down, and then side to side. Desk drawers slammed open, counter top file contents spewed forth on to the floor. I almost slipped on project files as I scrambled down 5 flights of stairs and out of the building.

What I came to to on Wednesday Morning: My desk after the earthquake

My desk after the earthquake – view #2

Being a Floridian, I never expected to feel something like this. I assumed my California cousins would corner the market on that experience. That goes to prove the adage about ‘assuming’ stuff, huh?

Then we hear about Hurricane Irene – first she’s supposed to make landfall in Florida – speaking from experience, Floridians know about hurricanes, its in our DNA to know what to do if a hurricane is coming at you. So, Wednesday evening, I’m thinking I have nothing to worry about.

Cue the foreboding music – dum dum dumb!

The updated weather models said Irene changed course, and she’s expected to hit the North Carolina coast, and head north, towards DC…and then New York…and then New England.

Excuse me, Mother Nature, but didn’t we just have an earthquake?

Saturday, August 27, 2011: we spent most of Saturday waiting for Irene, a most unwelcome guest, to arrive. I mentioned I’m a Floridian, right? So I felt prepared for what was coming, we had:

  • food (both human and canine)
  • water
  • batteries for flash lights and portable radio
  • cellphones charged
  • a stable landline
  • lawn furniture and potted plants secured to ensure they didn’t become projectiles
  • and a plan if we needed to evacuate

The rain began in earnest about 10:30am Saturday morning. It didn’t really get going until about 9pm, when the first significant strong winds buffeted the area. We had a few hours of listening to driving rain, whipping 50 mile an hour winds and the occasional power surge. Leeloo was not happy when the UPS units signaled a power surge with a loud BEEEEEEP!, poor Beaglette, she shivered uncontrollably for hours after each incident. We went to bed about 12:30am, thinking we were going to be okay…and at exactly 2:51am, our UPS units screeched a mournful last gasp, and the power was gone. Not much to do about that, so I went back to bed. Tim says he remembers having nightmares about our huge oak trees crashing on our house, or even worse, falling on our neighbor’s homes. In addition, if you are looking for company to get solar panels installed on your home?

We awoke late Sunday morning to drizzle, lots of branches from our oak trees strewn on the back lawn and no power. We took the Grrr Girls for a walk around the neighborhood to inspect the damage, and get some coffee from 7-11. How is it they never seems to lose power? Thankfully, Tim’s nightmares did not come to life for us, sadly many of our neighbors were not so lucky, with large trees damaging homes and taking down power lines.

The aftermath was anti climatic – lots of waiting for power restoration and cleaning up of yard debris. My neighbor found a way to harness the pent up energy of her 8 year old twins, by having them pick up and pile all the downed twigs and tree limbs in both our yards. We’ll have a bonfire with them once the branches dry out a bit more. Pepco did a decent job letting folks know when their power would be restored, and after our evening dog walk, our electricity came on at 9pm, just in time to watch an episode of True Blood on HBO.

This morning I ran into a woman from my time spent trapped in the parking garage after the earthquake. She seemed sheepish about even parking there. We chatted as we waited to go through the security check to enter our building. This was a more enthusiastic security screening than normal, and she turned to me and said “Did we really need to have this done today? Haven’t we been through enough this past week?” I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s hoping life gets back to normal this week, and the coming Labor Day holiday weekend is relaxing.