When the Earth Moved

March 11, 1993

Howard countians have now joined the ranks of those who have experienced an earthquake. They can't claim yesterday's tremor was on a par with any major natural disaster -- certainly not the way many in California can. But you can say that it happened and that, in a small way, life won't be the same.

The tremor that occurred at 9:32 a.m., its epicenter at Route 175 and Route 108 east of Columbia -- a mere 10 miles from Baltimore -- registered 2.5 on the Richter Scale, enough to cause an audible rumble and rattle a few dishes but nothing approaching catastrophe.

Still, for those who have lived in this region most of their lives, the idea of an earthquake occurring stood at the farthest reaches of remote.

More than 500 people called the county's Bureau of Central Communications and the fire department to express their dismay. Most figured that their homes shook because their furnace malfunctioned or there was an explosion outside. "I was in my bathroom upstairs combing out my hair, when the whole house shook," Columbia resident Micki Kasinger said. "I went downstairs to see if my kids were doing something wrong."

Alas, greater forces were at work. An official at the National Earthquake Information Center, an agency that we dare say many in this area have never heard of, attributed the quake to the slippage of large rocks reaching a peak and releasing energy from the earth. That peak was not nearly as high as the anxiety it created.

Fourteen-year-old Cara Baruth called the quake "weird" and expressed her desire to avoid one in the future. Others may have felt elevated into an elite core. Our recommendation for a T-shirt slogan: "I Survived the Maryland Quake of '93."

If there were any injuries, none was reported. One hopes that at least something slipped off a shelf somewhere and broke -- if only to add some credibility to the event.

All in all, it was certainly an event to talk about. Much like the last two earthly shakes of similar magnitude in Maryland on Sept. 28, 1991, and Jan. 13, 1990. An assistant scientist for the Delaware Geological Survey provided the best understatement: "It's not an everyday occurrence like in California." Da!

It was interesting and caused some minor tremor trauma. And, though this can't be said for many earthquakes, it even seemed to brighten an otherwise gray and snowy day.

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