August 23, 2011

Earthquake Affects Western Pennsylvania on August 23, 2011



ON AUGUST 23, 2011

      It was been a quiet day in…Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania.

     That is, until 3:18 p. m., the telephone roused me from my afternoon rest time.

     It was my sister Nancy in Lancaster, New York, a suburb of Buffalo.  She had just received word that her oldest daughter in Spotsylvania, Virginia, had just been a victim of an earthquake that occurred just before 2:00 p. m. Debbie’s house had things shattered all over it.

     She lived, as I learned, close by the epicenter of the 5.9 (Richter scale) earthquake.

     While talking with Nancy a call bleeped in. I told Nancy I would call her right back. The call was from my friend Fran, who lives forty miles west of me.

     Did I know, had I heard, about the earthquake? she asked.

     I told her I had just talked to my sister, that’s all I knew.

     Jim (her husband) was asleep when the headboard of his bed hit the wall. And the kitchen door came open… 

     I felt nothing here. I was sitting quietly watching the end of one of the last episodes of the soap opera All My Children. I didn’t lay down for about fifteen minutes after that.

     A bridge in Pittsburgh was damaged.

     I tried to tune in to CNN television news, but apparently we don’t get it. Then I went to the computer and tried to pull up information on the Internet, but CNN didn’t produce any results (apparently my computer company doesn’t sign n to CNN). I proceeded to MSBN and found one post.

     We talked for a while and then I called my sister back. She is really worried.

     “All I want to do is hear her voice,” Nancy said.


     Fast forward to late afternoon. I surfed the Internet and an Associated Press article from Mineral Springs, Virginia.* The most powerful earthquake to strike the East Coast in 67 years shook buildings and rattled nerves from South Carolina to Maine, it reported. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8 and was centered 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va… Shaking was felt as far south as Charleston, S.C., and as far north as Maine More than 12 million people live close enough to the quake’s epicenter to have felt shaking, according to the Geological Survey. The agency said put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage… The USGS said the quake was 3.7 miles beneath the surface.

     About this time, 5:33 p. m., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted an article.**  The epicenter of the 5.9 magnitude earthquake was about 87 miles outside of Washington, D.C. around 1:51 p.m…The tremors were felt as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Cincinnati…Dozens of viewers called into the KDKA-TV newsroom minutes after the ground shook in the Pittsburgh area…According to our news partners at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Point Park University and PPG Place were briefly evacuated.  The Dormont Municipal Building was also evacuated.

     The Temple Building and Skyview Towers Housing were also affected…The University of Pittsburgh has a working seismograph at the Allegheny Observatory and told Channel 4 Action News that its instrument did pick up some activity, registering a large spike when the quake hit…Pitt spokeswoman Morgan Kelly said the earthquake registered on the university’s seismograph for at least 20 minutes. The quake hit Pittsburgh at 1:43 p.m. and lasted until 2:05 p.m., Kelly said****

     Buildings in Washington, D. C. were evacuated, and a Virginia nuclear plant was shut down. Some cell phone callers experienced connection problems .*** In Westmoreland County there were also evacuations including Excela Health in Jeanette, which evacuated 72 persons from one of its medical facilities.

     My daughter works in the basement of a building in Somerset, Pennsylvania. She didn’t know about the earthquake until someone in the upstairs offices called to ask if anyone in the basement felt the building shake. The upstairs workers did feel the shaking.


     Fast forward to early evening. I showered, dressed, and headed out to enjoy an evening of music and readings by local writers. When I arrived for the Mello Mike event at the Ligonier Tavern, a group of Red Hat ladies was occupying a table in the Mello Mike meeting room. I was told the event was not happening tonight.

     After spending some time at the library, I went home and checked the Ligonier Living computer site. The following message was posted:

check on your family in Pittsburgh

My mother’s building is being evacuated as are other buildings in town.

Diane Cipa

     My guess is that Diane had to make an emergency trip to Pittsburgh and cancelled this evening’s Mello Mike.event. I hope all is well with her and her mother.


     Hearing all this is a surreal experience, not having felt the earth move or rumble beneath me. All was quiet on the home front. But who am I to question the fact that the earthquake did affect the Southwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York regions? That would be akin to saying that the spring and summer storms didn’t fell numerous trees, some a century old, in Laurel Mountain Borough.








Earthquakes in (Southwestern) Pennsylvania

Judgment Day: May 21, 2011

Earthquakes in Maine?


1 Comment »

  1. LOL Boy, what a crazy day! I was sitting at my desk in the basement office with my feet perched on the wheel base of an office chair. The sensation I felt – not being firmly planted – was one of being twirled around as if on a stick. I translated it as some sort of goofy dizziness and hoped I wasn’t developing vertigo. I kept working.

    JC and CH interrupted me pretty quickly to ask what I thought about what just happened and the light bulb just went on a I said did we just have an earthquake? You see, I had been working in a basement office back in the 80s when we had the last earthquake in the Pittsburgh area. Same sensation. Crazy. I posted a “did we just have an earthquake?” on Ligonier Living and went back to work.

    Then my mother called laughing. Through the laughter I could hear my sister saying “Mother, hurry up, we have to get going.” My mother was laughing saying that my sister was over-reacting but they were on the way to my house. What? Okay.

    I thought about it a minute then I thought I ought to call back and get a better picture of what was going on. I called back and this time my mother was clearly distressed. Their building was being evacuated. My mother isn’t well. She and my sister live in a highrise in downtown Pittsburgh. An evacuation – especially if stairs are off-limits – would be terrible for her. All I could get from her was that the buildings all around them were being evacuated. She wouldn’t leave without her animals – a dog and cat – and I said don’t worry, just get going and I’ll see you when you get here.

    Holy moly! At this stage I didn’t really know much, just that they were coming. I didn’t know if perhaps the quake in Pittsburgh had been more damaging than in Ligonier. Perhaps the buildings had to be checked for structural soundness. Who knows but I had to prepare for a possible multi-day stay.

    I sent a fast email to a few Mellow Mikers and asked them to pass the word that Mellow Mike was cancelled. I excused myself from the office and headed to Giant Eagle.

    When I got home, I had to prepare the house for the extra animals. We have two cats. My sister’s cat would have to stay in the guest room so I moved an extra litter box in there with plans that my cats and her cat would not meet. My mother’s dog is small and gentle so I wasn’t concerned about the interaction with my cats but we have steps that are a danger for small dogs and so when my mother comes to visit, I have to put up small fences along the bottom of the railings. Up went the fences.

    While we awaited their arrival we watched the news and it didn’t seem like the situation in Pittsburgh was too bad. When they pulled in and we had a chance to get the animals situated my mother said they would be leaving in the early am. Once they got out of town and into traffic on the South Side they had realized it was all over and could go home but decided to come on up anyway for a visit.

    We had a nice dinner and as we ate my sister – now calm – said she had really panicked and thought now that her cat would be much happier at home. So, after a nice visit, we packed up the animals and said goodbye.

    I put the house back to normal laid down on the couch and noticed it was only 7:30 – just about the time Mellow Mike would be getting into gear. I chuckled and promptly went to sleep. 😉

    Comment by Diane Cipa — August 25, 2011 @ 8:04 am | Reply

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