I was sitting at home, when at 7:12 pm Eastern, my house shook like it has never before. (Freight trains roll through this part of Portland, a block and half away, so I thought when it started, it was just another train. But this was shaky like no train going by.)
I've felt earthquakes before. During the parts of two years I lived in San Francisco, earthquakes, mostly small ones, were not unusual. The biggest quake I remember before tonight was one in southern Illinois, on November 9, 1968. It hit at 11:02 am, and it measured 5.4. I vividly recall I was working with mental health patients at Anna State Hospital, in a large hall, used as a gym, on the hospital campus. We all raced outside, although I did wait a bit under the arch doorway of that grand hall. Reading about that New Madrid quake nowadays, I see what a large event it was and how lucky we were.
Tonight's earthquake is said to have measured at first 4.5, then it was upgraded to 4.6, definitely the largest in New England in a long time. Eyewitnesses across the Boston area reported feeling the quake for up to 20 to 30 seconds. (Wednesday morning, and the feds have downgraded it to 4.0. I must say, they must not be New Englanders and survived that one, cause it sure didn't feel like a little 4.0 quake.)
The epicenter is said to be centered west of Hollis and Lake Arrowhead, Maine, 23 miles west of Portland, where I live. But more importantly, the epicenter was first said to be 17 miles deep, then later only 3 (and on Wednesday, 4.1) miles deep. That is a very shallow earthquake, and probably why it felt so powerful here.
Mainers are tough people, and there does not seem to be any damage reported from this quake yet. (Wednesday: Some cracked foundations and chimneys are being discussed.)
Standing on the sidelines at a soccer game in Waterboro Tuesday night, Kevin St. Jarre saw the spectators in the bleachers across the field suddenly stand up. Then a ripple, a "landwave," began rolling from the bleachers and heading toward him.
"It came across the field, and it passed beneath my feet and then behind me to where the team was sitting on the bench," said St. Jarre, who coaches the Massabesic High School varsity girls, who were playing against Scarborough High School.
"We pulled the players off the field and took a five minute break and calmed the girls down." ~ Tom Bell, writing in the Portland Press Herald, October 17, 2012.
What surprised me was the explosion of humor on the social media. Here are photographic samples of the "damage" and how people immediately reacted to this earthquake.