Second earthquake puts Columbia on shaky ground

March 12, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer Staff writer Lan Nguyen contributed to this article.

Columbia rumbled last night to its second little temblor in as many days as an earthquake rated at 2.0 on the Richter scale struck at 7:54 p.m.

The National Earthquake Information Service at Golden, Colo., put the epicenter about 15 miles southwest of Baltimore -- near Route 32 at U.S. 29, about five miles from the site of Wednesday's jolt.

But the Howard County Fire Department said the "couple of hundred" calls that jammed its lines as people reported the rumble suggested the epicenter was again near routes 108 and 175 in Columbia.

"Individuals reported hearing the same things as yesterday," Battalion Chief Don Howell said. "Houses shaking, dishes rattling . . . just normal citizen concern," he said.

"Another one -- what does this mean?" said Carla K. Buehler, describing "a rumble" she and her son heard at her home on Eclipse Way, in Columbia's Village of Hickory Ridge. "If I wanted to experience earthquakes, we'd live in California."

"I thought something big had dropped in the basement," said Ellen James Martin, a Sun reporter and homeowner on Dellwood Drive in Columbia's Allview Estates section. She described the sound as "a very deep and disturbing rumble" that lasted a few seconds.

The quake may have been an aftershock, thus less of a surprise to residents than the magnitude 2.5 temblor at 9:32 a.m. Wednesday, lasting less than five seconds.

But Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Service, said an aftershock would be unusual because this area has never seen one before. No damage or injury was reported in either quake.

"These are very minor earthquakes," Dr. Person said. "We don't expect any damage at all, not knocking things off walls or tables. I'm surprised [residents] felt this, too."

Until recent years, Maryland had averaged about one small earthquake a decade. Last night's, however, was the state's fifth in three years, all occurring within a 20-mile radius of the Granite-Woodstock area of southwestern Baltimore County and northeastern Howard.

County fire dispatchers said callers described "a loud bang, rumbling, shuddering of homes" in reporting the earthquake.

Carlo Morra, manager at a Hickory Ridge pizzeria, said the earthquake felt like a "big boom. I felt it under my feet. It was shaking."

"In Italy, we get them all the time," he said. "There, you see chandeliers moving. You see the buildings shaking, and you can feel yourself moving back and forth."

Diane Duggan felt Wednesday's rumble at her Allview Drive home as she helped sons Tim, 13, and Ryan, 11, with their math homework -- and she said it felt stronger than Wednesday's.

"It felt like we were right on top of it. It felt like somebody had planted dynamite underneath the house. It rumbled for about three seconds and it was gone. It was very intense . . . more severe for me tonight than the other one. It felt like my dining room floor just lifted."

But it wasn't bad enough to halt the homework for Tim and Ryan who, Mrs. Duggan said, "wanted to evacuate the house right away."

The earthquake was a first for Marianne Needle, who was not at her home across the street from Columbia's Owen Brown Village Center when Wednesday's quake struck. She said her husband was at work nearby then, and last night's jolt was "just as he described it."

"I said this is it, this is an earthquake, to myself, and I didn't want to be in a real one."

Afterward, she said, "I went downstairs to look at my insurance policy to see if I'm covered for earthquakes." She found no mention of it.

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