earthquake musings

Hairy Fairy Cup by Noah Siegel, at Devil’s Hopyard State Park

About 38 miles (61 kilometers) northwest from here is a town called Moodus. The Native Americans called the area “morehemoodus,” or “place of noises.” The noises come from the earth, fault lines running under the community. Modern citizens refer to them as Moodus Noises. With the disaster in Japan on my mind I took more note than usual when news reports came in on Thursday that Moodus had experienced a little 1.3 magnitude earthquake Wednesday night at 8:42 p.m. The epicenter was close to Devil’s Hopyard State Park.

We didn’t notice it here, and it caused no damage, but in Moodus they heard a loud bang and felt some movement, causing residents to call the police department and the police to drive around looking for what they feared might be an explosion. At 11:00 p.m. the U.S. Geological Survey called to tell them of the quake and the search was called off.

I’ve never felt an earthquake before and started to wonder about the local geological history of Connecticut. It turns out that on May 16, 1791 Connecticut experienced what they believe was about a 7.0 quake in the same area. “The stone walls were thrown down, chimneys were untopped, doors which were latched were thrown open, and a fissure in the ground of several rods in extent was afterwards discovered,” an observer said. It caused damage across southern Connecticut and it could be felt as far as Boston and New York. There were more than a hundred aftershocks overnight. It was the largest known earthquake in Connecticut’s history.

Apparently there was a 5.0 earthquake in southern Connecticut on November 3, 1968, but being an eleven year old in northern Connecticut at that time, I missed that one, too. Not that I necessarily want to experience an earthquake! When we lived in Greece in the early 1970s I felt there was a good chance of having one while we were there. And there was a little one my parents felt in Athens, but Beverly and I were away on a school field trip.

And happily imbibing, as I recall! As far as I know, children of all ages were allowed alcoholic beverages in Greece at that time. My parents actually told us not to drink the water as there was a meningitis outbreak in the area. We were instructed to drink only the wine. There were a few overly tipsy evenings on that field trip, this being a wild treat for the American students in our school… The European students were not sure what all our excitement was about. 🙂

This was one of those experiences that had an effect on my opinions about having an age of majority for alcohol. If you grow up drinking wine with your family it loses its fascination and thrill and all sense of novelty.

Two glasses of the Greek wine retsina, photo by Yorick R.

But I digress…

So, anyway… I started wondering, again, just how far above sea level are we, in case we have an earthquake here big enough to cause a tsunami. (After all, there was a 3.9 earthquake off Long Island on November 30, 2010, just a few months ago.) Beverly pointed me to an online topographical map of Connecticut: UConn Map & Geographic Information Center (MAGIC). Looks like we’re about 20 feet above sea level. The entrance gate of the campus where Tim works is about 90 feet above sea level, so we’ve decided that’s where we’ll meet. Happy for me, if driving there isn’t possible I can walk uphill to get there, or run rather, IF we ever feel the earth rumbling here. Somehow it feels better to be prepared, to have a plan.