Did you feel the earth move?
Many people did, and it made for good conversation a year ago – but little else.
One year ago, on Tuesday Aug. 23, a rare East Coast earthquake centered in Virginia shook parts of New Jersey shortly after 2 p.m., causing buildings to sway and people to rush into the streets wondering what was happening.
The quake ended up proving to be more of a conversation piece than a local tragedy, as there were few incidents of damage to area buildings and no major injuries reported.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake’s magnitude was around 5.9 with its epicenter located in the northwest of Richmond, Va.
Mad dash out of library
Last week, residents of Hudson County recounted their reactions to the event.
Librarians at the Hoboken Public Library said that the building that has been “inspiring minds since 1890” inspired something like panic the day of the quake.
“I felt the chair moving,” said Tara Weyouche. “Even my body felt weird after that.”
“I saw the ceiling flex a little bit,” said Pat Fischetto. “I right away thought it was an earthquake.”
“I looked up and the chandelier was moving,” said Diane Andrews.
“It’s very rare that we get earthquakes here and this building’s very old,” said Marilu Rosa.
“I got my bag and I ran right out of the building.” – Pat Fischetto
“I got my bag and I ran right out of the building,” said Fischetto. “I was like the first one out of the building. Two of my co-workers who were sitting on the bench asked what happened, and I said, ‘Earthquake!’ ”
Fischetto’s immediate exit was humorous to some of her co-workers.
“It was hilarious,” said Rosa. “Funniest moment of the year.”
Even patrons in the library ran out of the building in fear.
“We heard people upstairs running and everything was shaking,” said Fischetto. “All we heard was footsteps and they come flying down the steps.”
“There was no communicating,” said Weyouche. “I think everyone was in a state of shock.”
Some were unaware of what was actually happening. Andrews remembered yelling at the patrons who were running down the stairs when they realized that it was an earthquake. She is used to earthquakes because her son used to live in San Francisco. Andrews also believes that there will be another earthquake.
“I think that Mother Nature’s angry,” said Andrews.
What you should do
“We all felt it,” said Director Greg Kierce from the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEM), last week. He was on vacation that day, but he was in town. “I had stopped into work...to approve some paperwork. I remember I was going down to Newport Mall to do some shopping and midway the earthquake struck. During the initial event there were spontaneous evacuations which is reminiscent of what occurred on 9/11. It’s really hard to control something like that because human nature kicks in and people feel that the best thing to do is get out of the building.”
He added, “That’s not always the best answer.”
Kierce said the OEM regularly meets with security and safety people in the downtown area try to reinforce their citizens’ level of preparedness. An earthquake is unpredictable because it can lead to a fire or other dangerous conditions, Kierce said.
Once the earthquake hit, OEM went into emergency operations mode, sending people to certain areas of the city to look for damage. The Building Department, Fire Department, and Police Department made assessments to buildings.
Kierce said each workplace should have evacuation plans for such emergencies.
He said in a couple of months, Jersey City will provide free training for community emergency response teams (CERT) that will include basic first aid, and search and rescue operations. This training will be open to citizens and members of the business community.
From North Bergen to Hackensack
Connie Marrero, wife of Sgt. Henry Marrero of the North Bergen Police Department, recalled working in her Hackensack office the day the earthquake struck.
“Our building was swaying,” she said. “It was scary; it really was. I remember looking out the window and everything was moving to the side. It felt like the building was rocking. It didn’t set off any alarms or anything. The whole aftershock experience was like a good three minutes.”
She and her co-workers remained in the building because they were unsure of what was happening. Neighboring workers also made their way to the building to ask if they felt the movement. They were told to stay put until the Fire Department came to check for structural damage because the building has a ground-level parking garage.
The inspection lasted nearly two hours.
“There was an announcement made that there was an aftershock from an earthquake and the building was safe so [we could] go back in,” said Marrero. She also called her husband to ask if he and his fellow officers felt the earthquake.
Months later, on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 there were reports of yet another earthquake in New Jersey.
But the reports proved to be false.
More than 60 New Jersey residents called authorities saying they had felt some shaking of the earth.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Geological Survey said they use seismometers that are used to monitor quakes did not pick up any trembling.
Some sources in newspaper articles speculated that the shaking was from a “sonic boom” from fast-flying aircraft at McGuire Air Force base, but no official cause was given.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org