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Wednesday, August 24

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Not in peninsular Florida, no. The peninsula is essentially a vast sand bar with a stone spine.

But near the town of Mineral, Virginia, you're part of the ancient Appalachian Range. The Appalachians date back to before the dinosaurs, back when Europe and North America were one big landmass. The formerly active and lively faults under the mountains are fairly quiescent.

I said "fairly." A big (7.9 or so) hit Charleston, South Carolina back in the 1880s. Some of the houses in the historic district still have huge steel bolts in them, put in there to reinforce them after the earthquake.

Near the town of Trinidad, Colorado, on the other hand, you're near a far younger range of mountains, the Rockies. Tremors are more prevalent there, as the faults and tensions are much younger and livelier.

Early yesterday a magnitude 4.3 quake hit near Trinidad, causing minor damage to buildings but no major injuries. The Rockies and the West get tremors quite a bit of the time, as the Pacific Plate keeps nuzzling up against the North American Plate like an affectionate puppy.

Yesterday afternoon a magnitude 5.8 went off a half mile under the area of Mineral, Virginia. Since the Spotsylvania Fault is ancient and part of a very dense, rocky area, its effects were felt - not merely detectable, but felt - as far west as Detroit, as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Maine and Toronto.

The epicenter of the quake was located in Rep. Eric Cantor's district. The Republican is notable mainly because he advocates cutting funding for the US Geological Survey, NOAA and the National Weather Service. Kind of looks like a false economy now, doesn't it Eric?

A nuclear power plant is near the epicenter as well, regarded as the 7th most likely to be damaged in a quake. Interestingly, its earthquake safeguards were removed back in the Nineties as a cost-cutting measure. False economy again, and Dominion Power is still set on adding a third reactor to the complex.


The top of the Washington Monument has a crack in it, some plaster fell off the ceilings in the Capitol, and cell phone networks were swamped as people started asking, "What the hell was that?" The 5.8 was the strongest since 1944, according to NBC, so quite a few people can probably be forgiven for acting in a panicky mob.

But the earthquakes in Trinidad and Mineral aren't the only natural phenomena, oh no siree. Hurricane Irene has spooled up to a Category 2 as it boils its way up the Bahamas. The current track shows it will probably hit between Virginia and North Carolina.

Which - imagine that! - means that H Irene might hit Erica Cantor's district.

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