The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Chip Minemyer

August 28, 2011

Quake quirks, quibbles and quid pro quo

— The Great East Coast Earthquake – as Tuesday’s seismic incident may some day be called – thankfully fell well short of a catastrophe.

In fact, many people missed entirely the local rumblings of the Virginia/Washington, D.C., temblor.

Or perhaps the rumblings missed them.

Here at The Tribune-Democrat, staffers testified to feeling everything from shaking and wobbling to absolutely nothing at all.

In one case, a guy sitting at a desk felt the quake and saw his computer monitor totter, while another standing beside him said, “What earthquake?”

My office windows look out on an attractive alley that separates our building from the one next door.

Many times, delivery trucks have stopped in that alley while dropping of their wares, and I’ve felt the rhythmic rolling of the trucks’ engines as they idled while the drivers delivered.

When the quake rolled through, that’s what I first thought it was. But there was no truck in the alley, no deep cadence from a train chugging past a block away.

I quickly decided it was – gasp! – an honest-to-goodness earthquake right here in the generally stable Laurel Highlands.

I headed for the newsroom to see what others had experienced, and found reporters, photographers and editors debating what had just happened – or if anything had happened.

The next day, we posted a poll on our website asking to what degree people experienced the quake – which scientists say rumbled from Georgia all the way to New England.

As I’m writing this, 48 percent of the poll respondents answered, “I didn’t feel a thing.” And 33 percent said they felt it only slightly,       while only 19 percent characterized the quaking as “very strong.”

How could the windows in my office rattle and the lines running into the next building bounce up and down, and half of you didn’t feel a thing?

A natural mystery, apparently.


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Chip Minemyer

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