Let me say right off that I did not feel the initial shake or tremor that signaled Virginia's 5.8 quake on Tuesday.
I'm not sure what I was doing, walking, driving a car or mowing the lawn, but I remember looking at my watch and thinking, "Oh, I have enough time to take a shower and dress before riding my motorcycle into work today. It's such a nice day."
The time on my watch was approximately 1:50 p.m. The quake happened at 1:51 p.m. DST.
So, I missed it. I got dressed and boarded my cycle, and drove carefully and regularly down Route 50 toward Coolville.
But by the time I got just past Guysville, it would have been 2:35 p.m. or so, I cross the Hocking River and started into the curve, when my cycle moved from the center of the lane to the median rumble strips.
This startled me, as I had not swerved, turned nor had the wind gusted. I slowed down and got back into my lane, but concerned, I listened and felt for anything that might indicate a mechanical problem with the bike. Nothing.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, until I walked into work, and saw national news coverage of a quake tremor going on. It was some time before I learned the timing and the location of the quake.
After the fact, I suspect my cycle reacted to an aftershock. You may not know that a motorcycle is controlled by the balance of the rider, and leaning to one side will help turn the cycle or swerve.
It never occurred to me that the earth might have lurched under my bike, throwing it slightly off-balance, and causing the drift to the side of the road.
I checked the comments on our web-channel and saw lots of people sharing their experiences. And this reminded me of my experience six years or so in Hawaii when a 7.2 quake and aftershock occurred directly underneath us. Everyone wanted to talk about it, but people back home seemed not so interested in our dramatic event.
I think that's human nature. The unexpected nature of a quake, IF YOU FELT IT, leads you to try to explain it and talk about it. But for those of us who DIDN'T FEEL IT, it's hard to understand what all the fuss is about.
As it became apparent that there was no serious damage locally or regionally, we wondered why some many kept talking about the quake. As a widespread event that the media kept revisiting, it touched a lot of people, and we all had our version of what we experienced.
About half the people I saw that evening had not felt it... if you were moving or distracted, you didn't notice. But if you were seated or still, the sensations are unmistakable.
If the quake serves no other purpose, it reminds us that we should be prepared for emergency response. Here's a list of three simple things you can't do to be ready for a major earthquake where you live:
1) Learn how to shut off your gas service. The number one cause of fires in a quake is from escaping or leaking gas. Do you know where the shut off valve is for each of your gas appliances? Have you ever turned them? Could you? Why not buy a crescent wrench and attach it to the valve with a small chain so that it cannot be taken away. It might just make the difference...
2) Fasten your hot water tank down. Secure it to the wall, studs, posts....whatever... Anchor it from toppling. If the water service should stop for whatever reason, you need to be able to shut off the inflow and save that water as your only source of potable water for days to come. It might not come to this, but secure that tank to something sturdy with strap iron or a roll of bracing. Anything is better than nothing.
3) Prepare an emergency jump kit. This is standard operating procedure in California. EVERY family has a backpack next to the door with emergency supplies, cell phone, first aide kit, fresh shoes, socks, water and granola bars. The idea is that when the quake hits, you can grab the bag AS YOU GO OUT THE DOOR. (or, if your building collapse, you can reach the kit bag from the outside. Included in the bag is a large crescent wrench to share with your neighbors. See idea #1 above.) Many people carry a duplicate backpack in the trunk of their car as well.
This is a bare minimum that you can do to prepare NOW for the quake to come. Tuesday's quake should be a wake-up call. Why not do the minimum to prepare now? How much will it cost you?