A 5.8 earthquake hit the Washington DC area at 1:51 eastern on Tuesday, August 23. The aftershock on Twitter began about three minutes later.
The DC quake was the largest on the East Coast since one of the same strength in New York in 1944 and the largest in Virginia since a 5.9 temblor in 1897. A 5.8 earthquake releases as much energy as nearly 8 tons of TNT, about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Shannon Montague, a middle school technology coordinator from Bethesda, MD, began tweeting with the#DCQuake hashtag just a few minutes after the quake when she observed “THANK GOD FOR TWITTER. I was alone in my office and felt the quake. Thought I had lost my mind…”
More than 12 million people live close enough to the quake’s epicenter to have felt shaking, according to the U.S. Geological Service. The agency said put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaning there was potential for local damage but relatively little economic damage.
Within four minutes of the quake, news hits my own Twitter stream — not from someone retweeting the news, but from someone that I’m following who’s experienced it directly. This seems impressive to me, since I follow less than 500 people on Twitter. Of those, Stephanie Schierholz from NASA tweets “I just spent a week in California and had to come back to Maryland to feel my 1st earthquake @NASAGoddard. Wow.” An hour later, I learn that Schierholz is having trouble getting phone calls out to tell everyone she’s ok.. and that Goddard is shutting down.
By midafternoon, I learn that she’s made it home safely and I’m relieved: “I made it home. I’m okay, although I have to admit my heart is still racing. Thanks for all the notes of concern & care.”
This particular situation is a prime example of how the accessibility of social media tools and technology ranging from Twitter, Facebook, and smart phones, enable regular citizens to report breaking news from their own personal phones or computers faster than traditional media, and even aggregated news.
As seen on CCTV
One of the strongest earthquakes on record has shaken the East Coast of the United States. Windows shattered and grocery stores were wrecked in Virginia, where the quake was centered. Cars were also damaged when bricks and debris fell from damaged buildings. In Washington, the White House and Capitol were evacuated.