Earthquake in Virginia!

We just had an earthquake hit us on the East Coast. It was a 5.9 magnitude quake centered 9 miles south of Mineral, VA, about halfway between Richmond and Charlottesville.

I was at my desk in the upstairs office when I realized my desk was shaking back and forth. In a mild panic the dog came racing up the stairs.

Thinking the kids were playing with dynamite again, I yelled down stairs. “Why is the house shaking?” I yelled, getting angry.

“I don’t know!” came the reply from my daughter, Hallie.

Then I remembered that a builder had moved a house onto the lot at the end of the street. I had been talking to him this morning when he reassured me the home was in no danger of toppling over from the approaching Hurricane Irene. It weighs 100,000 pounds, he said. So if it wasn’t the kids tearing our house apart, my next thought was that the 100,000 pound house had just come toppling down.

It was when I watched the trees outside swaying rhythmically that I decided what I was feeling must be a mild earthquake. A trip to Twitter confirmed it for me (social media wins again).

It was the first earthquake I’ve ever felt, in spite of the three years I was stationed in San Diego. It was quite unsettling, to say the least. These things just don’t happen on the East Coast. What’s next? A plague? Will we see Godzilla next?

Anyone have video? Send it in and I’ll post it!

Hurricane Irene approaches

Hurricane Irene

For the past few days I’ve kept my eye on Hurricane Irene as it’s approached the Carolinas. The 8 AM models had it aiming directly at Raleigh but the models have trended east every cycle. The 11 AM models show it coming ashore at the Outer Banks and heading almost due north.

Though the folks at OBX should be concerned, it seems like Raleigh may have dodged a bullet with Irene. I still have to clean out my gutters, though, as we will likely get dumped with (much-needed) rain.

I look forward to using my FTA satellite dish to tune in all those hapless reporters as they struggle to stand on the beach!

Fourth away

We spent the Fourth of July at Kelly’s parents’ home, taking the backroads to avoid the holiday traffic. There, we spent Saturday on a geocaching hunt around Sky Meadows State Park. We also spent time at the pool, built hula-hoops, and watched the kids put on puppet shows.

Another highlight was visiting our friends from high school. We had dinner at the home of Jamie and Jim Neel along with Leigh Taylor. Kelly was friends with both Leigh and Jamie in high school and I was friends with Jamie, eating lunch together many days. It was good to catch up with them and to meet Jamie’s husband Jim, with whom I have a lot in common.

Sunday night as we were driving back from dinner, a strong storm passed through, breaking tree branches in the neighborhood and briefly knocking out power.

We enjoyed our visit. It’s tough getting back to work after that kind of fun!

Fungal infections follow tornado

Wow. I never would’ve guessed this. Here’s a fascinating tidbit from WRAL meteorologist Kim Deaner on the WRAL WeatherCenter blog.

Tornadoes can be deadly and destroy lives and homes with their violent winds, but did you know that they also have the potential to kill you in a way you would least expect?

Victims of the massive Joplin, Missouri, tornado are finding this out now along with the rest of the world. Days after the EF5 tornado devastated the town, people started getting sick and dying from a rare fungus. The CDC is now investigating how this fungus appeared and why it is killing already wounded victims of the tornado. To date, at least twelve people have been sickened with the fungus, and three people have died due to their injuries from the tornado and the fungus.

via Fungal infections follow tornado as threat ::

Crispy lawns

The Triangle is in another drought, with little substantial rain falling in the last few weeks (ever since I planted the garden, it seems. Hmm). The lawns around the neighborhood are all crispy brown. While I wish we had some rain to refresh those lawns, I’m very happy to see that everyone is resisting the urge to water their wilting grass because it means folks are conserving water.

Because of everyone’s efforts, Raleigh’s main fresh water reservoir, Falls Lake, is at 251.2 feet, just four inches below full. This is in contrast to December 2007, when Falls Lake dropped to a record low of 242.62 feet, or almost nine feet below full.

I know the city’s public utilities department has conflicting goals of conserving water and selling it (as the Raleigh Public Record so eloquently pointed out), but it’s hard to sell something you don’t have. Although the area lawns might taking a beating, at least the city is in good shape to weather this drought.

Update 2:30 PM: Rain! Glorious rain! Bucketsfull! Half an inch so far in the past half-hour! It’s wonderful!

Weather radio not alerting

Since the April 16th tornado, I’ve been paying close attention to my weather radio when storms are approaching. The problem is that it hasn’t sounded for anything in weeks. I tried connecting my radio to my attic antenna (aimed directly at the WXL58 tower in Chapel Hill) but it didn’t seem to help.

I decided to pay close attention to my radio during today’s scheduled weekly test broadcast. When noon came and went without my radio sounding, I emailed the National Weather Service with a report that the alert system may be in the fritz. My friend Greg has also noted a lack of alarms lately, too, so I’m thinking it may not be just my radio.

Should I hear back from the folks at the NWS, I’ll let you know.

Stormfest 2011

We had a great time biking into downtown Raleigh and checking out Stormfest 2011 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The museum was packed with people checking out all the storm-related tables ranging from information, science demonstrations, and local weather forecasters from both the National Weather Service and local news stations.

My first stop was the CERT table, where I picked up a schedule showing the upcoming training. I’d heard about CERT a few years ago when I invited the city’s emergency management director to my East CAC meeting. After my mailed application to join CERT came back undeliverable I gave up on the organization. It was only when I met volunteers helping with the tornado recovery in my neighborhood that I pursued them again. I hope to be in the upcoming classes, learning how I can better assist during a disaster.
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Fallen wires

The tornado that ripped through Raleigh a few weeks ago left much debris and heartbreak for its citizens. It also left a few downed telephone lines, one of which has been lying in the road near my home since the storm struck. I pondered how anyone could find it acceptable for their phone service to be out for over two weeks.

Then I hit upon the answer: no one has landlines anymore.

That copper lying in the street is likely “dead” copper, having long ago beed disconnected in favor of cellphone service or a VoIP connection. AT&T hasn’t been in a hurry to rehang that line because it’s not making any money from it. I wondered how much copper still hanging on those poles is still being used, and if local telephone companies are on a slow march to irrelevance.

Or maybe it’s a quick march.

Digging out East Raleigh

Volunteers assist with storm cleanup

I took some time off from work today to participate in volunteer efforts to clean the storm debris out of the neighborhood streets. The city’s Community Services department collected contact information for interested people to join in with dragging trees to the street.

At 10 AM, folks met at Lions Park for a safety briefing. Then after a waiver was signed, participants received a vest and pair of gloves. Then volunteers were sent to the field staging area at the Raleigh Boulevard Food Lion parking lot, where they boarded buses and vans to move into the neighborhoods. That way a bunch of cars weren’t parking along streets crowded with storm debris.

I took two other volunteers with me in my car and we drove up Millbank. Right beyond the first intersection (Brighton), we found a work crew clearing a yard of tree limbs. Feeling this was as good a place as any to pitch in, we hopped out and began to work. A construction crew was there volunteering as well, and with all the helping hands (and two chain saws), the yard was clear in no time.
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