5.8, or "But Did Thee Feel the Earth Move?"

The two biggest events on my mind today are Susie’s imminent return to Columbus (her plane will be landing at Port Columbus at 6:35 p.m. tomorrow night), and the earthquake that briefly rattled us here in Columbus today. The “5.8” title I gave this entry refers to the Richter scale reading. The other title is a line from For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway, a post-coital question that has become a cliché for romance (and comedy) writers worldwide.
We did feel the earth move at work today. The day was a slow one, as it often seems to me when I’m transcribing my least favorite doctor. Just before 2 p.m., I was at my desk releasing a batch of ex parte orders I had typed earlier in the day, when I saw my computer monitor jiggle just a little bit. At first, I thought I was seeing things–my mind was on an appointment later that afternoon, and I can’t always trust my senses when I’m not sleeping well. I realized I wasn’t hallucinating when two ballpoint pens perched near the edge of my desk rolled off onto the plastic mat under my chair’s wheels. I jumped a little when they hit.
Two women who work in my area were giving each other What was that? looks, and one said, “Did you feel that?” The other said yes, although no one had any idea what “that” might be.
People in other sections of the 10th floor said they felt something as well. That was when the word earthquake began to travel from person to person–it was almost visible. The thought didn’t come to mind, even after I saw the pens fall from my desk to the floor. A new supervisor is moving into our department, and I thought that workers transporting furniture into what will be her office were rolling something heavy (like a credenza or a desk) over a bump in the carpet.
I collapsed my work-related screen and pulled up The Weather Channel’s Website. Even after typing in the ZIP code for my office building (43215), there was nothing about the earthquake, except in Tweets from readers (viewers?). There was a one-paragraph story about an earthquake in Virginia, however. I don’t have access to Twitter or Facebook at work, but I can post to Twitter by sending texts from my cell phone. So, once I learned about the Virginia earthquake, I texted, Think we got a piece of the earthquake that hit Virginia. Shook my monitor and knocked some pens on the floor. My Twitter posts simultaneously appear on my Facebook page, and within minutes my friend Ivan in Vermont emailed me that he had been at the library in Fair Haven and his table wobbled. Another friend posted House rolling here in Massachusetts.

This is my second earthquake. I experienced a similar one in the summer of 1980, during my first visit to Cincinnati (no idea it would be my home by the end of the decade!). I was staying at a friend’s house in College Hill, and mid-Sunday afternoon, I was riding a bike down his driveway and felt a small tremor, like an elevator stopping too abruptly. My friend’s neighbors came out of their houses, and the word “earthquake” came up almost right away. One of the people had a weather band on his radio, and sure enough, that’s what it was. I called Dad in Marietta, and he had felt it there as well.
The epicenter of this earthquake seems to be near Louisa, Virginia. This is a small town (pop. 1401), but I had heard of it. It is home to Twin Oaks Community, an intentional community that is still going strong, 44 years after its humble beginnings on a former tobacco farm. At loose ends as the end of high school neared, I wrote to Twin Oaks, contemplating going to live there, back in the long-ago days when I thought I could live communally. (I have nothing but respect for those who are able to do it, and who do; I just don’t think I’m wired that way psychologically).
Below is an unusual move for this blog. I started this entry by clicking the Blog this! post from WBNS-TV’s (Channel 10) Website, where the earthquake was the lead story. I wasn’t home at 6 p.m., so I watched the news from their site. So, I’ve written this entry around the link to the video of tonight’s news.
Since I sometimes allude to the music I’m playing while I type these entries, I want to go on record as saying that I don’t have Carole King’s album Tapestry ripped to this laptop, so therefore I was unable to commemorate the day by playing “I Feel the Earth Move.” (I’m actually listening to The Marcels’ cover of “Blue Moon,” from 1961.)

Quake Rattles Buildings In Central Ohio

The Snow Was Not What I Envisioned

Yesterday afternoon, a Weather Channel alert about heavy snowfall popped into my email box, forecasting accumulation of three to five inches.  Later reports, both from The Weather Channel and our local meteorologists, made it sound like the snow would begin falling mid-afternoon, and would continue without ceasing for most of the night.  I am always up for a good snowstorm, so my reaction to this was more anticipation than dread or worry.

Hence my disappointment.  My pod is on the 10th floor of the William Green Building, and my window faces west, which means I usually have a front-row seat at any incoming storms.  Yes, there was a time or two when I would look up from the computer monitor and it would be white enough outside that I could not see the main post office or ODOT (the Ohio Department of Transportation) off in the distance.  Most of the time, when it did snow, it was light.

I came home from the Columbus State bookstore tonight (Saturday will be my last day there, at least until spring quarter starts at the end of March), and Steph was watching a DVR recording of today’s Young and the Restless.  At the bottom of the screen were dozens of cancellation notices.  Many school systems (not Columbus) were dismissing kids early, and churches were cancelling evening services and programs, night school classes weren’t meeting.  All this for what can’t even rightly be called a dusting.  The temperature never got above the low 20s today, and I didn’t enjoy the walk on E. 5th Ave. from the Cleveland Ave. bus stop, but this is hardly Storm of the Century.

Even with enough advanced warning, it seems many people downplay the inconvenience of a good snowfall.  I remember the first New England snowstorm I experienced, while I was living in Boston.  I woke up very early on Saturday morning so I could head to Cambridge and typeset The Harbus News, the weekly newspaper of the Harvard Business School.  I had been vaguely aware that snow was falling when I went to bed the night before, but I gasped when I stepped outside and saw there was whiteness as far as the eye can see.  At the time I lived on Commonwealth Ave., just up from the Boston University campus.

The surface lines of the T (Boston’s subway system, short for MBTA–Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) were not running, and I stood there with my jaw dropping open when I saw how careless drivers were being.  Since I’m almost always up for a decent walk, I trudged east toward Kenmore Square, where I could catch the subway.  (That night, after The Harbus was finished, I sat in The Crimson‘s deserted newsroom and typed a letter to my dad.  I remember writing, “It was crazy this morning!  I must have seen a dozen accidents on my way in to work.  You’d think New Englanders would know how to drive in the snow!”)

Hearing the forecasts made me think of a paperback I read in the 1980s.  It was a novel by George Stone called Blizzard, and it was about meteorological warfare.  The tag line was “What if it doesn’t stop?”  A weather-controlling weapon gets loose and a huge snowstorm buries most of the eastern U.S., including New York and Washington, D.C.  The book itself wasn’t all that wonderful, but what was fascinating was how each chapter started with the current time, temperature, snowfall, and forecast.  The first chapters, the weather statistics are relatively benign.  America is hoping for a white Christmas, and it looks like they may get it. The later chapters talk about snowfall of four to eight feet with drifts to 10 stories, and each forecast is the same: “Snow ending tonight.  Clear and cold tomorrow.”

Before Susie got up this morning, I crawled to the laptop and pulled up Channel 10’s Website to see if school was cancelled.  There were cancellations, but they were mostly in Washington County and Athens County, so Susie headed off to catch the school bus while I got back in bed for another hour of sleep.  There was no wind rattling my windows, and there was some additional snow on the ground, but the wetness and the slush from earlier this week was gone.

Last night’s radar on WBNS-TV.

I took a break from typing this, and went to the window and looked out.  All is quiet on the weather front, and it looks like we won’t be buried in any more than an inch–if that–of snow tonight.