Editorial: Shaky day for Rowan
Thankfully, the earthquake that sent tremors Tuesday through Rowan County and much of the East Coast did not collapse freeways or topple buildings. But it was reminder enough that the ground beneath our feet can and does move.
The tremors emanated from the Central Virginia Seismic Zone just before 2 p.m. and set off a variety of reactions. Drivers thought something was wrong with their cars as they began to rock. In offices and homes and restaurants, people looked at each other and said, ěDid you feel that?î
This may be your first earthquake, but Rowan County has experienced several before:
Around 2 a.m. Dec. 16, 1811, the most powerful earthquakes ever to hit the eastern United States sent tremors through Rowan, shaking houses and toppling brick from chimneys. The New Madrid earthquakes, named for the Mississippi River town at the center, jolted the Eastern Seaboard twice that day. They even rang the Rowan County Courthouse bell.
The night of Sept. 1, 1886, the great earthquake that destroyed much of Charleston, S.C., sent shocks through Rowan. The Carolina Watchman reported that the streets were filled with frightened people and bricks fell from chimneys. It was one of the largest historic shocks in eastern North America, killing 60 people ó none in Rowan.
The morning of July 26, 1945, a slight but well-defined earth tremor shook parts of the Carolinas, including Rowan, for about 10 seconds. Ruby Brown of Mahaley Avenue felt the bed shaking and thought some member of the family was trying to wake her. Mary Collins of South Fulton Street thought she was having a heart attack when the tremor shook her bed and decided to see her doctor immediately.
The night of Nov. 19, 1969, earthquake tremors shook much of the Southeast, including Rowan. Leslie Lee, Civil Defense director, was at the VA Hospital for training at the time. ěBuilding No. 1 floated like jelly,î he said.
The U.S. Geological Survey says earthquakes in the central and eastern United States are less frequent than in the West, and they are usually felt over a much broader region. Fortunately, theyíre also less severe than the earthquakes that stick in our minds. A quake shook the San Francisco area and collapsed a freeway in 1989. Another devastated the poor nation of Haiti in 2010. Japan is still dealing with the aftereffects of the quake and tsunami that rocked its northern regions in March.
As we compare stories about the Quake of 2011, people on the coast are bracing for Hurricane Irene. Moments like this can be humbling. Despite all that we do and all the technology we have developed, nothing can halt natureís forces.