Shaken, but un-stirred

August 25, 2011

As of the end of  the week, we've been looking down the barrel of a powerful named storm, the kind that cause flooding, power outages and general mayhem in these parts.

No one can predict what the storm named Irene has in store for Harford County. It may end up among the names people talk about for generations, or it might be just another cyclone that turned out to sea. Hurricanes are notoriously unpredictable that way.

Regardless of how, or if, we end up remembering Irene, it'll be a long time before anyone forgets this week's other display of nature's power: the rare East Coast earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 that was centered in Virginia, but proved disruptive from the Carolinas to Canada.

And talk about unpredictable. Earthquakes in Maryland, at least the kind you can actually feel, are about as rare as snowballs in warm places like, say, Las Vegas.

Along the Pacific Rim in places like California and Japan, an earthquake like the one that struck these parts this week would have been barely a topic of conversation, possibly on par with a thunderstorm or unusually hot day.

For a generation of us from these parts, it'll be something to talk about for years to come.

"Yeah, we had an earthquake back in 2011. Really shook things up," we'll be able to joke. Fortunately, it wasn't so much of a natural disaster like the quakes that make the news in Japan.

It was really more of a natural inconvenience. It was enough to make you think, though, how frightening a quake in the 7 or 8 range really is.

It's enough to make you almost welcome the familiarity of a named storm. We've weathered them before.

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