Quaking on the East Coast WSJ.com 8/24/11
Now they know how Californians feel. The kind of routine 5.8 earthquake that Golden Staters take in stride startled millions on the East Coast yesterday at about 2 p.m., shaking the ground from Florida to Maine and even reaching President Obama on a Martha's Vineyard putting green. No word on whether the temblor caused his ball to fall from the lip into the cup and help him win the hole, a la "Caddyshack." Quote of the day goes to journalist Tim Carney, who tweeted, "Krugman says it wasn't big enough."
It's easy to joke when no major damage is done, short of some frazzled nerves. Buildings (including the Pentagon and New York's City Hall) were evacuated for a time, flights were delayed or cancelled, and a Virginia nuclear plant lost its onsite power before the diesel generators kicked in. But government officials reported few cases of serious damage to buildings, roads or other public works.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was the largest in Virginia since May 1897, and it's a reminder that quakes can happen across the U.S. The quake's epicenter, 40 miles south of Richmond, was in what is called the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, which we doubt most Virginians knew existed. We certainly didn't. We also didn't know, but were glad to learn, that East Coast quakes are often felt at a further distance, but tend to do less damage, than West Coast quakes because the geology of the region is more stable and thus a more efficient transmitter of seismic energy.
Meanwhile, a 5.3 magnitude quake also struck Colorado Monday night, about 180 miles south of Denver. It was the biggest quake in that state in 40 years. If you're wondering about a pattern here, and looking for a culprit, we're sure someone will soon blame global warming.
As for the news coverage, we couldn't help but notice a tone of moral superiority creeping into the West Coast stories, as though the earthquake wimps on the East need to toughen up. "What?! An earthquake? East coast reacts with shock," headlined the Los Angeles Times.
New Yorkers probably deserve it, and we know they do in Washington, D.C. But if the folks in Malibu don't object, we'd just as soon wait another 114 years for the next one.
Related: Head of IPCC blames earthquakes on global warming