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Residents feel quake throughout region

By Staff | Aug 24, 2011

A 5.9 earthquake in Virginia was felt locally in Tyler County. The epicenter was located roughly 3.7 miles below the earth’s surface, 83 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. and 41 miles northwest of Richmond, Va.

Just before 2 p.m., tremors from an earthquake were felt in Sistersville, Paden City, New Martinsville and Middlebourne.

“It’s one of the largest that we’ve had in Virginia,” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones said in the aftermath of the initial shock. She urged people to expect aftershocks.

Jones said that she expected to see “significant damage” to old, brick buildings near the epicenter. “If you’ve already got some damage, you might want to stay outside,” she said.

She also raised concern that water and gas lines may have been damaged.

Sistersville resident Penny Howard also expressed concern with gas lines and old structures. “Our daughter called to tell us about the earthquake and my first thoughts were of the ‘New Madrid’ fault-line and the old building beside our house.”

Howard has been working with City officials for the past 15 years to have a dilapidated building beside her Main Street home. Known as “the Carriage House,” the structure has changed hands many times over the years.

She added, “The building is unstable. I’m afraid the city has paid lipservice for so long that it’s too late.”

For some, the earthquake was a first. “At first I thought I was going nuts then other people started mentioning it and now I’m kinda freaked out about it,” commented Kayla Henthorn.

Linda Buck, the 2011 Tyler County fair queen, was frightened by her experience. “It was definitely my first earthquake! I was in my dorm room at Marshall University and thought I was going crazy. I was completely terrified!”

Sistersville Chief of Police Ben Placer said, “We got phone calls from up and down the river.”

Mayor Dave Fox added, “The only time I can remember something like this happening was when a tsunami hit, and it was reported a wave would come down the Ohio River. It was just one wave, stretching all the way across the river. I saw it come down through. It was strange.”

“There will be other tremors,” said Terry Wiley “Wait and see, we’ll feel it again.”

But Tuesday’s earthquake was not a first for Betsy Westfall. She felt the ground shake in 1980 while working at Union Carbide. “I was in a room with several other women and we all confirmed we felt it.”

Elsewhere in the country, people were speaking out about their experience. “Our building was shaking the way a skyscraper isn’t supposed to shake,” said a lawyer in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan. Dan Fisher, the step-son of Middlebourne Mayor Gayla Fisher commented via Facebook, “We had to evacuate our production office on the 17th floor at 11 Broadway.The streets of New York City were a combination of 9/11 and Mardi Gras.”

The earthquake prompted evacuations of the Capitol, the Pentagon and many other area office buildings.