A few minutes before 2 this afternoon, I was walking down the stairs from my office at home to make myself a late lunch when I heard this rattling noise, like that of an overloaded washing machine. For a second I wondered why the washer in the basement could have overloaded and started shaking all by itself when nobody had put any clothes in it today–then the rattling turned into rumbling, which I thought sounded more like a freight train barreling down my street–and then the thought popped into my head: “earthquake.”
I ran back up the stairs to the nearest source of noise, a bookshelf, and grabbed it with my hands to brace it in place while I hoped none of its contents would fall onto anything, least of all me.
In retrospect, that may have not been the smartest move ever. Look, they didn’t teach about this kind of contingency when I was growing up on the East Coast.
A few surreal, deeply alarming moments followed while I felt the entire house jittering and shaking around me and pondered the improbability of an earthquake stronger than a hiccup hitting the Washington area. I have spent a lifetime seeing the ground’s movement measured in geologic time, and I was not prepared for this.
Then things rumbled to a halt.
My computer’s screen took a few minutes to stop shaking afterwards. So did I, even as I typed out an update:
WTF! Earthquake just happened! House rattled, pictures ajar, iMac still shaking on its stand. I'm shaking too.—
Rob Pegoraro (@robpegoraro) August 23, 2011
But after all the drama, a magnitude 5.8 quake does not seem to have broken anything at home. I’ve got a dozen or so pictures to straighten, but there are no other signs of damage–no cracked plaster, no new creaks, no doors that have to be shoved to open or close, no quirks with the water, electricity or gas. (Anything else to check for?)
Fortuitously enough, the only thing to fall off a shelf was my dad’s old hard hat.
So now we can all joke about it.