04 October 2006

Shake, Rattle and Roll...

If you were anywhere near the Bar Harbor on Monday evening, you probably felt the earthquake that surprised everyone there. In fact, there have been a series of small earthquakes in the area over the past couple of weeks.

Many years ago, when we moved to Maine from Southern California, we were certain we had left the earthquakes behind us; but we awakened to shaking and rattling in our beds on a Saturday morning about 5 or 6 years ago. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief and simultaneously said, "Earthquake!" There was no damage and it stopped at about the time we realized what was happening.

But in Bar Harbor this week, things have been shaking a little harder than usual.

According to seismologists, Maine typically has one to three earthquakes each year, and those are rarely anything more than a magnitude 3. The quake on Monday was a 3.9, and it involved more than just a little shaking and rattling. Walls shook, items fell off walls and shelves, and glass broke. Rock slides resulted in the closing of several roads and hiking trails in Acadia.

While Maine's solid rock foundation usually means fewer quakes, it also makes a 3.9 magnitude earthquake here feel more impressive than it would feel in California, where the fractured ground eases the vibrations. Here, the shaking carries straight through the hard bedrock.

According to scientists and the history books, the biggest earthquake on record in Maine occurred in 1904 near Eastport. With a magnitude of about 5.8, it damaged chimneys and walls and could be felt as far away as Massachusetts and New Hampshire. While rare, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake would be expected to occur in Maine approximately every 138 years.

Since earthquakes give no warning and cannot be predicted, when one hits, we have very little reaction time. If you feel an earthquake, no matter how slight, keep in mind the following suggestions:

1. If you are indoors, run to a doorway or get under a sturdy table, to protect yourself from falling debris.
2. If you are outside, do not go into a building; stay out in the open.
3. If you are driving, pull over and stay in the car; try to avoid bridges or tunnels.
4. If you are in the mountains, move away from cliffs or rock outcroppings.
5. If you are at the beach, move to higher ground as soon as possible. 6.Most importantly, remain calm and encourage others around you to do the same.

While earthquakes in Maine are rare, we should always be prepared.

Copyright © 2006 - Paulla Estes

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