Twitter and the Great DC Metro earthquake

Washington Monument

Aerial view of DC's Washington Monument. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Last August, the DC metro area underwent a 5.8 earthquake. Yes, people, you read that correctly. I said earthquake.

Since the DC area is an earthquake-free zone (or it used to be, anyway), this event shook us up quite a bit. I was at home that day. As I walked toward my computer after lunch, I felt and heard what seemed like the vibrations caused by a buffing machine (the type that you use to polish a floor). The roar grew louder and louder but I still didn’t figure it out.

And then my computer began to dance around on its table and I clued in. “WHOA!!!! Earthquake!” I got in the doorway, waited until the trembling stopped and dashed outside to the street. My neighbors popped out of their homes, firing questions at each other: “Did you FEEL that? What was that?”

Luckily, nobody got hurt. A few cars suffered some damage from falling masonry and some DC area monuments and buildings closed for repairs, but that was it.

What I found fascinating was the different reactions that appeared on Twitter and the sheer speed of those reactions. Within minutes, some people wrote comic tweets that made references to politicians or political events causing the quake. Other tweets were helpful, warning others of areas that had been evacuated.

Still other tweets expressed shock and awe that this event even happened at all. Those tweets came mostly from the East Coast. Tweets from the West Coast were more nonchalant: “You call that pitiful tremor an earthquake? Ha! C’mon over here; we’ll show you a REAL earthquake!”

Intriguing, isn’t it? Years ago, people raced to their radios or TVs for information after an event like this. Now, it’s Twitter, Facebook and Google+ before the radios and TVs. You just have to love social media.



Filed under Social Media

4 responses to “Twitter and the Great DC Metro earthquake

  1. Jaclyn

    Heh, I remember the earthquake. I was downtown, getting ready to defend my first deposition. We were on the eighth floor and we felt the tremors, and the building started to sway. At first we thought a helicopter had hit the building, then we saw people in the streets all up and down the block. Opposing counsel went sprinting for the stairwell, yelling “Cancelled! Cancelled!” so I said to my client, “Let’s get outta here!” and we went running for the stairs too. Fun times! We spent about an hour milling about with the crowds in the streets, figuring out what had happened and rescheduling the deposition. And then I got home and all of my pictures were crooked. I definitely hit Facebook hard that day!

  2. I’ve experienced a very minor tremor, but since I had never been through anything like it before it was very unnerving. It lasted a few seconds at night, and then stopped. Life went on and I never had anyone make any mention of it the next day. Enjoyed the post.


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