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I think on that particular day, the entire community was surprised from it.
I had no idea living in this portion of the country that we would experience anything like that.
My name is Chris Swezey and I work for the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. I live in Louisa, Virginia. When the earthquake occurred on August 23, 2011, I was in northern Virginia in Reston and my wife was out of town in Richmond, and we both rushed back home as quickly as we could. She got here before I did and we found that our chimneys were down. They had shattered and there was a pile of bricks on the roof and also where we normally park our car beside the house.
The hurricane was coming soon so we scrambled and got up on the roof to put a tarp on the holes where the chimney was—where the two chimneys were—so that water wouldn’t come into the house. And we worked and worked on this, and we threw the bricks off the roof. And then right as we finished—this was the day of the earthquake—the sun was about to set, a big aftershock—I think it was a 4.2—came through and we were on top of the roof at that time. It felt like we were surfing on top of the house. We just said, “uh oh, hold on, here comes another one.” And once that passed, we quickly got down off the roof.
I know the schools here in Louisa County—some of the school buildings have been condemned. That has had a major impact on the children and the schedules for school. They shifted their lunch schedules, the afterhours, the classes meet at strange hours, and it’s just going to take a long time for the community to rebuild that. Those structures need to be rebuilt all together.
I’m Captain Jason Smith with the Orange Sherriff’s Office. I’ve been employed here with the Sherriff’s Office for almost nine years. I have lived here in this county my entire life. I have never experienced anything like this particular earthquake. On the day that it happened, I had just come back to the Sherriff’s Office. I had been out serving some warrants. We stepped into my office, and a few seconds later, we hear just a loud roaring noise. We didn’t know what was going on. The floor in the building started to shake. My Lieutenant Colonel at the time, he said, “don’t go out the back door.” And we said, you know, “okay.” And he said, “the water tower we have right behind the office is back there, and it could fall on the building.” So we all exited through the front, and we got out to the parking lot, we could hear the water swishing in the tower.
After the earthquake happened, for the first few minutes or so, people could call on their cell phones, but with any real event that happens of course cell phones tend to go down. We found out very quickly that all cell phone traffic had shut down, and that’s one of our primary sources that we use to communicate with everybody aside from our radios.
Judith Lamb: My name is Judith Lamb and I live here in Orange County on a farm with my husband, horses, and dogs. My friend Beth here was spending the weekend and she was getting ready to leave. We were standing in our living room and the house started to shake a little bit. I didn’t really think about it because we have a lot of Blackhawks that fly over and farm machinery going up and down the road. But within a few seconds, you quickly realize that this not something normal because you hear glass breaking in the kitchen, the dogs run around barking, windows start to rattle. And Beth and I looked at each other, and immediately we looked at each other and said, “earthquake, oh my god, what do we do?”
Glass starting breaking, things started falling off the walls. Judith’s husband, George, has an antique glass collection that he had on a windowsill upstairs. They all started falling off, and we could just hear glass breaking all over the house, which was obviously very scary. And with that, we attempted to get as far away from glass as we could, which was in the main entranceway where there are no windows. And we just huddled on the floor, put our hands over our heads, we each had a dog, and we were just hanging on.
One of the really cool things after the earthquake was that I could go on the USGS website, and I could determine from looking at it whether or not we did have an aftershock, which was fun because some of them are so slight that you wonder, was that an airplane, a dump truck, something like that. But you can go on their website, and it will tell you the time and the duration and the strength of the quake.
I mean around here, nobody expects earthquakes to happen.
I think most of us assume California. I did not expect the center of Virginia to feel what we felt of that magnitude that day.
Earthquakes will occur again here in Virginia. We just don’t know how frequently—geologists know where earthquakes usually occur, but they can’t predict the magnitude or frequency very well. And that’s a big research question.
Title: Living Near the Epicenter
Watch video interviews with four people discussing their experiences near the epicenter of the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in central Virginia on August 23, 2011. Tens of millions of people in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada were startled by sudden ground shaking from this earthquake, which was among the largest to occur in this region in the last century.
Location: VA, Louisa and Orange Counties, USA
Date Taken: 8/13/2012
Video Producer: PK Cascio , U.S. Geological Survey
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Additional Video Credits:
Director: PK Cascio
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