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July 24, 2014

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Originally published: 2011-08-26 10:26:52
Last modified: 2011-08-26 10:27:09

Earthquake rattles village

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 occurred in central Virginia just before 2 p.m. Tuesday, rattling much of the East Coast, including portions of Watauga County. A 2.8-magnitude aftershock and a 2.2-magnitude aftershock were also reported, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Early magnitude estimates often undergo revisions before a final figure is reached.

The 911 centers for Boone, Blowing Rock and the county reported no calls regarding damage or injury from the tremors. Throughout the county, the effects were patchy.

Vilas resident Marian McMahon said she was sitting by her computer at Bairds Creek Road when the chair started to shake.

“I turned around and half expected that my husband had snuck in and shaken my chair,” McMahon said.

She said the shaking started off gentle and continued for almost a full minute.

Like McMahon, Watauga County resident Lindsay Luxon didn’t immediately think “earthquake” when she felt the tremors at her office in downtown Boone.

“I could feel kind of the really quick repetitive shudders,” Luxon said. “It lasted about five seconds, I guess, and I was thinking, ‘My, that was really weird.’”

The Blowing Rocket editor Jeff Eason said it originally felt like a strong gust of wind was hitting his office in Blowing Rock. 

“I was on the second floor of the building and I looked out a window and there was no wind blowing in the treetops,” Eason said. “For a brief moment, I thought a really large truck was rumbling by on Highway 321. When I figured out that wasn’t the case, it hit me: We must be having an earthquake. It lasted 20 or 30 seconds.”

The earthquake was centered near Louisa, Va., a town of about 1,500 residents roughly 30 miles east of Charlottesville.

In Washington, D.C., the White House and surrounding buildings were evacuated, while the monuments were examined for possible structural damage.

On Wall Street, traders at the New York Stock Exchange felt the quake and shouted to “keep trading!” CNN reported.

The earthquake was felt as far north as Canada and as far south as South Carolina, various news outlets reported.

While earthquakes on the East Coast are far less frequent than on the West Coast, they are typically felt over a broader region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Many in the region remember the 2.7-magnitude earthquake reported in eastern Tennessee in August 2010.

The most deadly recorded earthquake occurred in the Shaanxi province of China in 1556, killing 830,000.

Fewer remember the Sept. 9, 1970, earthquake in the region near Boone. Former Blowing Rock resident Janice May does.

She was a young girl at that time when the area experienced two tremors in a week. During the second one, she and her family were sitting in Middle Fork Baptist Church for a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

Pastor Eugene Byrd was on his knees, praying fervently when the lights starting swinging the whole building shook, May said. He never stopped praying for what “seemed like hours.”

The shaking finally stopped, and the pastor put his thumbs in his suspenders.

“He said, ‘That was some might powerful prayer, wasn’t it?” May said.
For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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