8.23.2011

Earthquake, seriously?

I don't even know how to start this blog. I'll just spit it out - today we had an earthquake. In Virginia. The east coast. An earthquake. Seriously. I know! Unbelievable right? When you get over the initial shock and awe of it all, it was actually a crazy and frightening day.

It was about 1:30 when I debated as to whether or not to get Autumn out of bed. She was playing more than she was attempting to sleep, so I felt prompted to get her out of bed and try again in a half hour. We started playing in the living room when at about 1:50p.m. the house started to shake.

My thought process was as such:
  • "Hmm, must be a plane flying low overhead."
  • "I wonder if Quantico is doing drills today." (The Marine Corps base is close, and often does practice drills with bombs and artillery which can be felt and rock the house)
  • "Are we being bombed? The war is here!"
  • "Holy cow. Is the house sinking? Are we sitting on a giant sink hole like I've seen on TV in California? Do I stay in or do I run out, stay in or run out?"
  • "This couldn't possibly be an earthquake... I think it is! But I live in VA!"

I scooped Autumn up and looked out the window (for bombs and airplanes, duh) and ran to the front door to stand in the doorway. The house was shaking fairly violently. You could hear all the rattling of the furniture, the frames on the walls (some of which fell) and the nose of the earth moving. Imagine the feeling in  your home when the washer is unbalanced, a plane flying low over head and semi trucks driving by - that is what an earthquake feels and sounds like. (According to reports it lasted 48 seconds in some areas. That doesn't sound very long, but count to 48 right now. That is a long, scary time to not have the slightest clue why your house is shaking and if it is going to get worse.) The scariest thing wasn't the shaking or quake itself, but not knowing what it is, and living in an area where this never, ever happens.

Autumn held to me so tight. She just put her little head on my shoulder and held on while we braced in the doorway. There was a lot of adrenaline running through me - the whole experience was just nuts! Exciting. Scary. Baffling. When the shaking stopped, I could hear people yelling and chattering outside. I opened the door to join them when I found my neighbor outside in a towel - he'd been in the shower when the quake started and ran out terrified.

After talking with my neighbor about how unbelievable what had just happened actually happened, and checking Facebook (which proved to be an amazing tool in a crisis to spread the word and check on loved ones), I noticed something - my house smelt a lot like gas.

I took Autumn over to the neighbors and asked if he was having the same problem. His did not, and he was worried and came in and definitely smelt the same odor. He told me to call 911 and get the fire department out here immediately. The fire department? Leaking gas? Holy crap. It just got real folks.

He helped watch Autumn while I searched for my keys and my wallet, just in case we needed to make an exit. At that point my mood went from being on a rush of excitement to a little bit of panic - if there is gas leaking in my house, what if walking around or static electricity blows me up? Autumn had been playing with my purse and I couldn't find my keys. WHERE WERE MY KEYS?! The phone isn't working right! It was the first time I've ever called 911. The woman on the phone made me nervous - I was fairly calm about the whole situation but she was very rapid and alert. Autumn and I sat outside with Jerry, my awesome neighbor, while we waited for someone to arrive.



That someone were 2 firetrucks and enough Fire Fighters to put out an entire office building. I felt so silly - all this for me? Gracious... Jerry assured me better safe than sorry, and you certainly don't mess with gas especially with a family. We waited outside while all the firemen went into my home and broke into the vacant house next to me to survey the problem. A few minutes later the man who I assume was the Chief came out and told me they had found a leak near my hot water heater. They'd turned off the gas and alerted the gas company, but he recommended I make a call as well since the list of calls was bound to be growing. He told me the home was safe and I could go back inside, but to call the gas company immediately.

This frame was much further back on this shelf, at an angle as well as the photo next to it. It just barely avoided disaster.
Within the hour the gas company arrived, at about the same time my Dad arrived to check up on Autumn and I. The man came down into the basement to assess what the firemen had done and verified there had indeed been a leak - a big one. The pipe/valve connected to the hot water heater was "hand tight" and may have shook loose with the quake. He told me I was incredibly lucky I'd been home - if it had continued to leak and I'd come home, turned on a light switch or conducted static electricity, I probably wouldn't have a home anymore. Yeah - exactly why I have always been terrified of living in a home powered by gas. He fixed the problem, checked on the main lines and turned the gas back on. Phew! That was crazy!

Many of Autumn's books abandoned ship and fell to the floor during the quake.
Autumn, following the quake and after being given the okay from the gas man, cleaning up her books.
We definitely feel blessed today. Aside from a few things falling off shelves, our house sustained little to no damage. Sure, my heart is just returning to a normal rhythm, but Autumn and I were watched over and just fine. The patience I'd been praying for with Autumn transcended into my ability to think clearly and react well to the situation. I am grateful for my neighbor and friend for giving me someone to lean on and help me and Autumn today! I personally have felt at least 1 aftershock (around 8PM this evening) and my heart jumps everytime a car loudly rolls by or I can hear a semi drive down a nearby road - I wonder if it is the start of another shock.

One of my fallen frames - luckily the glass remained intact.
Phew. So that is the story of how we survived the quake of 2011. When you factor in the hurricane headed for the east coast on Friday (and our planned trip to the OBX in North Carolina on Sunday) it is definitely making for an interesting week...

3 comments:

  1. How crazy (and scary)! So glad you guys are okay!

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  2. Wow - I didn't realize you'd opted for the bonus features on the earthquake. =) Seriously, though, I'm so glad the gas smell was strong enough quickly enough to alert you right away. Quite the adventure!!

    It was crazy - people down here felt it, too. We were swimming at the time, so we didn't notice anything. Too splashy already, I guess. =) Still crazy to think of one happening out here.

    Final thought: What's with you guys and hurricanes at the beach? =)

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  3. My only experience calling 911 was the same: I was trying to be calm, and the lady was freaking me out.

    Was your neighbor chilling with you out on the curb in his towel?

    That gas thing is really scary. I'm glad it all ended up okay.

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