Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 18, 2013

Remember the rumble? Some fled local buildings after shock waves in August 2011

CUMBERLAND — Just when you thought that earthquakes would never happen here — that they are for California and other far-flung places — the events of August 2011 turned that thinking upside-down.

At 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, the trembling of the ground and shaking of buildings in many portions of Allegany County and the Potomac Highlands sent some fleeing into the streets.

An earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, based in central Virginia, sent shock waves through much of the mid-Atlantic region.

Tammy Powell, who was working on the fourth floor of the CBIZ building, spoke to the Times-News shortly after the quake.

“It just shook sideways. It was different from the wind. We said, ‘What was that?’ ”

Another CBIZ employee, Weezie Feeney, also spoke to the Times-News just after the incident.

“We didn’t know what happened. The possibility of an earthquake never entered my mind,” said Feeney.

Most people who experienced the event said the shaking lasted less than 30 seconds and came in two waves.

The county emergency management office said that 911 received more than 300 calls in a burst of activity minutes following the quake.

Centered 36 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., the quake’s epicenter was in the town of Mineral. The shock waves were felt from Georgia to Canada.

Records show the last earthquake to strike the mid-Atlantic before 2011 was also in Virginia in 1897 and had an estimated rating of 5.8 on the Richter scale. The epicenter of that quake was in Giles County in western Virginia.

Fortunately no one was injured locally. In fact, no fatalities were reported even near the epicenter where the quake cleared shelves in super markets sending the items to the floor of the aisles.

“The ground shook. The coffee was just shaking in my cup at the time,” said Mount Savage resident Donald Rice.

It was later found that the quake was a reverse slip of a previously unrecognized north-to-northeast striking fault in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

California, which has a lot of experience in dealing with earthquakes, has guidelines published by its Department of Conservation on what to do during a quake:

• If indoors, stay there. Stay away from windows, exterior walls, kitchens, appliances, heavy furniture. Get under a desk or table and hold on, or stand near an interior wall.

• If you are in a high-rise, do not use elevators.

• If outdoors, stay away from buildings and power lines. Get into an open area. If in the mountains, beware of landslides.

• If you are driving, move out of traffic and stop. Stay clear of bridges, light posts, signs, trees and power lines.

• If in a crowded area, avoid panicking and don’t run for the exit. Stay low and cover your head and neck with your arms.

The Maryland Geological Survey classifies most areas of the state, including Allegany County, in the lowest possible risk level in the country for the likelihood of experiencing an earthquake.

However, the events of August 2011 show that anything is possible.

Greg Larry can be contacted at

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