Mother Nature Speaks: Press Release : Valley News – June 24, 2010

Press Release: Valley News – June 24, 2010

5.0 Earthquake Outside Ottawa Raises Buzz in Upper Valley

By Bret Yager | Valley News Staff Writer

Lebanon – So, did you feel it?

That was the buzz all over the Upper Valley and the Northeast following the 5.0 earthquake in Ontario yesterday afternoon.

The quake, which struck just after 1:41 p.m. and was downgraded from a 5.5, occurred about 33 miles northeast of Ottawa at a depth of 12 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  The pulsations in the ground set dishware rattling and rooms swaying, prompting numerous residents to call media outlets and check earthquake Web sites.

“The whole room went left to right and right to left for about 15 seconds.  It was pretty weird.” said John Yacavone, an employee at Northeast Mailing Systems on the corner of Bank and Elm streets in Lebanon.  He’d never felt anything quite like it.

Lebanon and hartland police, and Vermont Emergency Management said there were no reports of damage from the quake.  More than 8,500 people from as far east as Oxford, Maine, and west as far as Cleveland went online to the U.G.S. Web site to report feeling the temblor in the first hour and a half following the event.  Around Lebanon, White River Junction and Hanover, about 35 people used the site to report light shaking.

John Ebel, director of the Weston Observatory at Boston College, said most reports indicate people felt the ground shake for about 30 seconds.  In Boston, panic led to the evacuation of a couple of buildings, he said.

The quake struck on the southern edge of the Western Quebec Seismic Zone according to the U.S.G.S. summary.  Earthquakes in the zone are generally mild, with three or four felt in the region each year and a damaging event once a decade.  A magnitude 6.1 occurred in 1935.

Nichole Hastings, who felt the shaking on Green Street in Lebanon, saw particular significance in the timing of yesterday’s shaker.

“It happened at 1:41 p.m.; that’s a palindrome number, one that reads the same forward and backward,” said Hastings, who sees a correlation with a pressurized, out-of-control oil leak and sudden thunderstorms in the Midwest.

“Nature is saying something.  She’s saying think about how you’re treating me.  Love me, don’t hurt me.”

Hastings may have seen even more portent in the exact timing, which, according to the U.S. Geological Survey was 1:41:41.  This was Hastings’ fourth quake; she experienced three others in Japan.  Yesterday, she was sitting at a computer when her chair started moving.

“I said, ‘This is a neighborhood, there are no giant trucks that go by,'” Hastings said.  “I look up and see the house visibly swaying.  When you feel the earth move, there is nothing more amazing than that.”

Hastings estimated the feeling of “thunder” lasted about five or six minutes, but acknowledged that time might be hard to calculate under those circumstances.

A few miles closer to the epicenter, in Post Mills, Joan Solger estimated the shaking lasting no more than three or four seconds.

“The house just started cracking like it was being hit with big drops of rain,” said Solger, whose husband was outdoors and didn’t feel a thing.  “Then all of a sudden, it was like being on a roller coaster.”

Ebel said the last time the region felt a comparable quake was in April 2002, when a magnitude 5.1 hit the Adirondacks region.

Odds are , this was a single event that will be followed by small after-shocks in coming days and weeks,”  Ebel said. “But there are a few instances in the historic record where a quake of this size was followed by a larger one or one of comparable size.  We can’t rule out another event; it’s just not very likely.”

Steve Foltz, a mapper with Geographic Services Corp. on Court Street in Lebanon, said he felt a very gentle rocking.  Some three decades ago or so, he’d been in southern Vermont and experienced a quake with an epicenter in New Hampshire.  That one made a roar like an oncoming train.

“I didn’t hear that noise this time,”  Foltz said.  “But someone down the hall did.  She went up on the roof to see if someone was up there banging around.”

Bret Yager can be reached at byager@vnews.com, or 603-727-3209.

Footnote:

The article was not published online on the site, only in print.

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