Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BREAKING: DC Metro Earthquake - Plus FEMA's Safety Tips

UPDATE: Find out more background information about earthquakes. Also, the Washington Post's John Wagner Tweets: "Maryland State House evacuated following earthquake" (follow Maryland Juice on Twitter). 

Dear readers: My house shook, the walls were vibrating, and a low rumbling sound emerged everywhere around me. There was just an EARTHQUAKE in the DC Metro area. Scary! Surprisingly, one of my friends in New York City also felt it: "Yeah we felt it in NYC too. It must've been really strong in DC."

The U.S. Geological Survey is measuring this event as a 5.9 on the Richter scale, with the epicenter 27 miles East of Charlottsville. Note: the USGS has a cool tool called "Did you feel it?" that allows internet users to add their earthquake experiences to an online database. Input your story online!

According to Wikipedia: "An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger than one that measures 4.0" and that an earthquake between 5.0 and 5.9 "can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings."

Notably, Wikipedia also says there are about 800 worldwide earthquakes of this magnitude every year. For perspective, twice in the last two days, Colorado witnessed earthquakes between 4.6 and 5.3 on the Richter scale.

See the USGS report on the Virginia earthquake below:

  • Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 17:51:03 UTC
  • Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 01:51:03 PM at epicenter
Location37.975°N, 77.969°W
Depth1 km (~0.6 mile) (poorly constrained)
Distances45 km (27 miles) E of Charlottesville, Virginia
55 km (34 miles) SW of Fredericksburg, Virginia
64 km (39 miles) NW of RICHMOND, Virginia
82 km (50 miles) NNE of Farmville, Virginia
Apparently, this happened once before in July 2010, setting a record with a 3.6 on the Richter Scale. Last time around NBC reported:
It was centered near Rockville, Md., the USGS said. NBC News reported that the quake was felt in the D.C.-area, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Amy Vaughn, a spokeswoman for USGS, told NBC station WRC that the quake was the largest recorded within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of Washington since a database was created in 1974. The previous record within that time period was a 2.6 magnitude temblor in 1990. 
Below, I've copied FEMA's tips on how to conduct yourself during an earthquake:

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

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