On Tuesday, I was in the cellar getting ready to fold freshly dried laundry. At the instant I opened the dryer door, there was a huge rumbling sound, like a freight train about to crash through the house. It felt like the walls around me were expanding and contracting. I charged up the stairs, realizing the house was shaking. It was not the dryer door that had caused this havoc, it was a magnitude 5.8 earthquake, with it’s epicenter just 40 miles up the road. We’ve since had 3 or 4 after shocks. Nothing terribly big, but enough to leave my dogs, Sam and Molly, on the clingy side, not letting us out of their sight.
There has been little to no damage here in Charlottesville, save for a fractured gas line that was repaired quickly. In Mineral, where the quake was centered, several homes were destroyed and in Louisa, the elementary school built in the 50’s is probably going to be condemned. Friend’s of mine, who are living in a new house in Louisa, have cracks in their basement floor. The nearby nuclear power plant at Lake Anna, was shut down automatically as the quake began, but only 3 of its back up power sources came on-line. That is being investigated.
Officials in Culpepper, just north of us, are razing an historically important building today because it is too dangerous to leave standing. In Washington, DC, our magnificent National Cathedral was damaged and there is no word on whether or not it can be restored.
Nobody in the area expected this to happen. No one has insurance that will cover damage from earthquakes. It’s a separate add-on to a regular homeowner’s policy, that no one buys because we rarely have earthquakes here. There have been only 25 quakes in Virginia since it became a state, according to what I heard on CNN.
Sometime tomorrow, Hurricane Irene will sweep up the East Coast after making landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Virginia has already been declared in a State of Emergency. At this time, New York City, is on the direct path the storm is likely to take. Can you imagine being in a highrise on the 20th floor in surface winds of 85 miles-per-hour? Can you envision what the City will be like when the subway systems and streets are flooded with the copious amounts of rain that could fall? If you live on Long Island there are only a few ways off and around the City. Then where do you go? Inland flooding is expected to be as dangerous or worse than what is being predicted on the coast.
In this country alone, it has been a summer of huge, natural disasters. From tornadoes, flooding, drought, and searing heat, to earthquakes and hurricanes, it is a year to remember and contemplate. What will the coming years be like? Are we prepared for these catastrophic events? Can Mayor Bloomberg do enough to keep his city safe? What can any of us do?
Here in Central Virginia, we should experience winds up to around 30 mph tomorrow, along with about an inch of rain. Unless Irene takes a more westerly route, we have little to worry about. Sunday promises to be like any other day in paradise, while huge suffering will be taking place north of us into New England.
I wrote the following poem in 1989, as a way of dealing with my frustration over what we have been doing to our beautiful, blue planet and why we may be experiencing some the things that have been happening.
We are fleas upon this dog hopping about sucking searching for a vein persisting in synthetic dreams vinyl blue pools golf course green grass rejuvenated monthly with fertilizers insecticides fungicides
We sculpt the land cut trees for paradise strip malls hurry up highways lace the air with unseen gases deadly vapors so thick we cannot see the views we cut the trees for
We pump heavy metals surgical leftovers into the sea sit in the sun risking cancerous complexions on oil slicked beaches where dolphins lie dead
And this dog keeps spinning chasing her tail trying to scratch chew nibble and shake the pain away
I know I sound gloomy and pessimistic, but what we are seeing is happening. Each one of us must try to find ways of stopping the pollution, of understanding and attempting to reduce carbon emissions, bringing global climate change within reach of being lessened. Some say we are beyond the tipping point, but I don’t find that to be a viable excuse to keep us from trying to leave a better world for our grandchildren.
Where ever you are this weekend, please be prepared and stay safe.