No quake-related problems reported in Eastern Panhandle

August 23, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — New Martinsburg resident Christopher Bonar on Tuesday received a rattling reminder of what life was like in northern California when he was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force for 11 years.

"I'm here no more than a week and have my first earthquake," Bonar said while eyeing a home for sale in downtown Martinsburg.

Roberta Hyde of Martinsburg, who was getting her hair done when the salon chair she was sitting in began to shake, said she ran from 11 hurricanes when she lived in Hilton Head, S.C.

"That was what we are supposed to be getting," Hyde said of Hurricane Irene's projected path up the East Coast.

Bonar said the first indicator of Tuesday's quake for him was when he heard his deck squeaking while on the third floor of the town house he had just purchased.

Then the Great Falls, Mont., native said he turned around and saw some unpacked boxes in his home moving back and forth.

What he was experiencing was like old times, but no less surprising given the historic rarity of quakes on the East Coast.

"Really? Here?" Bonar said he was thinking.

In California, quakes are so frequent that people there don't evacuate buildings, Bonar said.

The attitude of people there is if the "big one" hits they're all going into the ocean, Bonar said.

When an earthquake struck while he was at a San Francisco 49ers game, "the fans just cheered," Bonar recalled.

At City Hospital, no one was evacuated from what is the tallest building in Martinsburg with eight floors, said Teresa McCabe, vice president of marketing and development for West Virginia University Hospitals-East.

Staff on the eight floor reported that the building did "shake and sway a bit," but no damage was found afterward, McCabe said.

Facilities at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., also were unharmed, McCabe said.

A few family members concerned about the well-being of their loved ones contacted hospital officials, but McCabe said patients did not have to be evacuated.

School and local government offices in Martinsburg, and Berkeley and Jefferson counties reported no quake-related problems.

"Everything seems to be OK here, all of our facilities seem to be fine," Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said.

"The building started shaking like crazy," said Suzanne Shipley, president of Shepherd University.

She was speaking of the university's admissions building that houses her second-floor office and other major school functions.

Shipley was standing outside her building with other refugees driven out moments after the quake rolled through Shepherdstown in Jefferson County. Students, faculty and staffers left all the other campus buildings as well.

All of the buildings were checked for damage by university personnel but no damage was found.

Alex Stevens, a Shepherd junior from Clarksville, Md., was taking her class in color light photography Tuesday afternoon when her computer started to shake.

"That's an earthquake," Rick Bruner, her teacher, told the class.

"This was the first earthquake I've ever felt," Stevens said. "I freaked out."

Staff Writer Richard F. Belisle contributed to this story.

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