Earthquake shakes R-C area

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2003

WINTON – Robbin Stephenson said she didn’t know what was happening. The pictures shook on the wall of her Winton office. She curiously watched a small potted plant tremble on her desk.

&uot;I didn’t know what was happening until I got home and saw on the (TV) news that there was an earthquake near Richmond (Va.),&uot; said Stephenson, employed as Finance Director for Hertford County government. &uot;I guess then it all made sense of why my office was shaking.&uot;

The earthquake, measuring a magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter Scale, occurred at 3:59 p.m. on Tuesday. Its epicenter was located just south of Goochland, Va., approximately 28 miles west of Richmond. According to information on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website, the quake was shallow in nature, occurring approximately three miles below the Earth’s surface.

Very minor damage occurs with a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. There were isolated reports of slight damage west of the epicenter, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

&uot;It felt really weird, like something had fell on the building,&uot; continued Stephenson. &uot;I didn’t know if someone was doing maintenance on the building. The whole thing lasted just a few seconds, but it was really eery feeling.&uot;

Over in Murfreesboro, Steven Dunn was working in his basement office of the Chowan College Columns Building when he felt the wall shake.

&uot;My office is located right under the (Turner) auditorium and it felt like someone had dropped something really heavy on the floor,&uot; recalled Dunn, employed in the Admissions Office of the college. &uot;It was like some sort of vibration. I could feel and see things shake.&uot;

Dunn added that he telephoned a friend at Parker Hall (a student residence building located on campus) and was told that eight-story structure shook as well.

Back in Winton, Gator Manley, who resides on Hill Street, said that he felt his house &uot;tremble and shake&uot; at around 4 p.m. He called his wife, who works in Ahoskie, to inform her of what had occurred. It was from his wife that he learned of the earthquake.

The Roanoke-Chowan area wasn’t alone in feeling the shockwaves emitted by the quake. The USGS website listed local responses from Como, Murfreesboro, Eure, Winton, Jackson, Gaston, Roanoke Rapids, Halifax, Enfield, Edenton, Williamston, Jamesville and Plymouth. In North Carolina, the earthquake was felt as far east as New Bern and to Boone in the west.

Regionally, the quake was felt in five states – Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania – and the District of Columbia.

In Richmond, Elizabeth Vinson – whose mother, Cindy, lives near Murfreesboro – was working at a clothing store when the earthquake occurred.

&uot;I sensed something, but I thought it was a big truck passing by outside,&uot; she said. &uot;It wasn’t anything major here. Our phones went out for a short time, but we never lost (electrical) power.&uot;

Vinson said she later talked to co-workers in the store who told her that a customer, who had previously lived in California, knew exactly what was happening.

&uot;I guess she should know, being from California,&uot; noted Vinson.

Earthquakes trace their roots to within the bedrock miles below the Earth’s surface. When the bedrock shifts, it releases energy that rises to the surface. That energy is measured in magnitude on a seismograph. A 4.5 level earthquake causes little or no damage, as compared to ones measuring 7.0 or higher.

Although less frequent than their western U.S. counterparts, earthquakes in the eastern part of the nation are typically felt over a broader region. The largest quake in Virginia history occurred in 1897 in Giles County, located in the southwestern part of the state. The last reported earthquake in Virginia occurred in 1959.

The earliest earthquake on record in North Carolina was March 8, 1735 near Bath. There were a series of shockwaves, 75 in number, felt in McDowell County between Feb. 10 and April 17, 1874. The state’s last reported quake was Sept. 9, 1970 near Boone.