Aftershock And An Exercise in Horror

August 25, 2011

Early Wednesday, a sharp 4.5 aftershock hit about five miles from the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake, which rattled the whole US eastern seaboard and has put people on edge.
Via Twitter this morning: visionAri_style 1:30am: #aftershock !!!! I felt that !!!! I knew I wasn’t trippen! But I am trippen bc I packed a bag in case of emergency (lol) #DCearthquake

And the rolling continues.

This particular aftershock was also shallow, only 3.1 miles deep and authorities said no major problems have been reported off the fifth tremor following Tuesday’s big one.
And one local resident via The Baltimore Sun:

“I felt the first heavy tremor about 1:10 and over the last hour I have felt several minor tremors,” Little Italy resident Joseph Watchinsky wrote on Facebook.
“This house is 200 yrs old and has ridgid construction shakes with the smallest tremor and my Jack Russle is acting creepy, or creepier then usual so I’ll be sleeping with one eye open tonight.”

One eye open, huh?

Although in yesterday’s post I kind of poked fun at folks on the East Coast about earthquakes, but in reality one never really feels comfortable even with us weirdos out here in quake-country California — and I do appreciate the apprehension and tension they are experiencing right now.
Once there’s an earthquake, there’s no relaxing for awhile.

And being ready ain’t easy.
In the wake of Tuesday’s shaker, Washington, DC, experienced a taste of what could have happened, but didn’t and revealed disaster preparedness is not easy, either.
From the Washington Post this morning:

Traffic was snarled for miles in downtown Washington as employers released workers early at the same time thousands of commuters tried to drive home or cram onto buses and trains already overloaded and slowed by speed restrictions because of the quake.
“Not that yesterday was chaos, but definitely, it was not as smooth as it could have been,” said Justin Thorp, 27, a marketing manager who works downtown and who escaped the congestion with a bicycle he found through a bike-sharing program.

A 2006 federal government report criticized the Washington region’s emergency response plan as “not sufficient” for a catastrophic incident.
The most recent response plan, dated 2008, calls for the city to erect shelters and says it may be preferable for people to stay put instead of trying to evacuate.
“Human beings have a propensity to take flight rather than just to stay where they are, which is a prudent decision in a lot of situations,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Wednesday.

And Tuesday’s quake was not a biggie as biggies go.

In that Boy Scout-be prepared mode, it was disclosed this week that the federal government held a simulated earthquake/disaster test last May for the central part of the US in which 100,000 Midwesterners were killed instantly, and forced more than 7 million people out of their homes — it was an exercise in horror.
And although results off the test — titled National Level Exercise 11 — won’t be released to the general public, according to what happened government officials worry that state and federal authorities won’t be able to handle the “cascading failures” that follow such an event.
The test was patterned after an actual horror story: The December 1811-February 1812 series of earthquakes, three of 7.5 magnitude or better — it caused damage for 50,000 square miles.
According to the USGS:

The earthquakes caused the ground to rise and fall == bending the trees until their branches intertwined and opening deep cracks in the ground.
Deep seated landslides occurred along the steeper bluffs and hillslides; large areas of land were uplifted permanently; and still larger areas sank and were covered with water that erupted through fissures or craterlets.
Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore.
High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared.

Not too many US peoples were living in those regions near two hundred years ago, but now — 15 million people are there now along with 15 nuclear plants.
The test last May went unnoticed, but Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog has the story.
The money snip:

During NLE 11, more than 9,000 National Guardsmen were dispatched to 50 sites around Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee for mock disaster relief.
They were joined by workers from the Food and Drug Administration, state agencies, and charity groups like the American Red Cross. I
It was a truly massive undertaking — especially considering there were all-too-real tornadoes assaulting the region at the same time.
Still, it was only a fraction of what would be required, if there’s an actual catastrophe along the New Madrid fault line. Carwille estimated that 42,000 search and rescue personnel would be required, in the event of a real quake.
Those responders would be severely inhibited in the aid they could provide, noted Stockton, the Pentagon official.
“Electric power would go out, not for days, but for weeks and months in the four state region,” he said. “Municipal water systems, they all run on electricity, don’t they? Well, people are gonna get thirsty.
You need water for firefighting, don’t you?
Second, all gasoline pumps run on electric power.
Same with diesel fuel.
So in terms of road mobility, of getting the relief forces in, and evacuating people out — no gasoline?
The cascading failures go on and on.”

The Danger Room title for the post included ‘Fukushima on the Mississippi‘ — implying a disaster beyond comprehension.

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