August 24, 2011 [LINK / comment]

Earthquake? What earthquake??

All along the eastern seaboard, millions of Americans were jolted just before 2:00 P.M. yesterday by an earthquake that registered 5.8 on the Richter scale. (Some reports said 5.9.) There was minor damage to the Washington Monument, the National Cathedral (camera see recent photo), and other structures many miles from the epicenter in Mineral, Virginia. Me? I was about 80 miles away, relatively close to the biggest seismic event in the eastern U.S.A. in the past 50 years, and I didn't feel a thing. I was out driving at the time, returning from a lunch break to the campus of Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg, Virginia. My car tires absorbed the bad vibrations, leaving me oblivious to the tremors beneath. What kind of dirty rotten luck is that?!

I'll never forget my first experience with an earth tremor. It would have been late October 1994, in Lima, Peru. I was in the midst of my first interview as part of my doctoral dissertation research, in the office of a professor at the Catholic University in Peru, when everything started to shake. The professor looked mildly alarmed, but the seismic waves soom receded and nothing big happened. Similar temblors happened three or four times after that over the next couple months.

Folks in Latin America are used to mild tremors, as are the folks in California. Occasionally, however, they get hit by catastrophic earthquakes, such as in August 2007. Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake in January 2010, and Chile did as well in February 2010.

UPDATE: Just today, the eastern (Amazonian) region of Peru was hit by an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale; some sources say it was only 6.8. Since it's a rural area, there were no reports or major damage or loss of life. Thanks to Jacqueline for the tip. See El Comercio of Peru.