Sudden Disasters: Now It’s Tornadoes & Earthquakes & You Can’t See Them Coming

They had an earthquake in Maine last Tuesday. It was a 4.6 slammer by Hollis Center, just 20 miles southwest of Portland and, apparently it went on and on, much longer than your usual earthquake. This resulted in just about everybody in the area running outside, figuring that where they were inside was just about to fall down.

An earthquake near Portland, Maine? What next? A volcano in Calverton?

Ever since I can remember, all the bad natural events that strike suddenly were elsewhere in the United States, not here on the East Coast. We suffered with hurricanes, which the rest of the country did not. You’d hear about them coming for four days before they would arrive. They were bad. But with four days notice you could batten down the hatches, pick up bottles of water, batteries, canned food and portable radios and flashlights. We could get ready. And when the time came we could brace ourselves.

The scourge of almost everywhere else in the country were tornadoes and earthquakes. They’d come without advance warning. One minute everything was fine. The next, boom.

I have family in both the Midwest and on the West Coast, and it seemed to me they had a different attitude about natural disasters than we do in the East, and it is my opinion that this difference was largely due to this different way of looking at things. West Coast people and Midwest people seemed in general to have a more whatever-will-be-will-be approach to life. Things would strike us. It would be bad for a few minutes. Then the bad thing would go away.

In my neck of the woods, the East Coast, people seem worried all the time. They look out the window a lot. They listen to the weather report a lot. Is it time? Is it coming? There seems to be a lot more anxiety, a lot more need for psychiatry in these parts. Never any sudden stuff. But now THIS.

We had an earthquake here on the East Coast last summer. I’ve lived here more than 55 years. I can never recall our having one before. It shook our building in Bridgehampton for about half a minute. It made some of the employees run outside frightened. Was the building collapsing? Turns out this earthquake was centered in Virginia of all places. But the shifting of the earth was along some sort of crack that came all the way up the Atlantic and into the Hamptons to rock our world here. It did not extend into New England. New Hampshire, of course, is rock solid. Maine is “the other granite state.” It would be unimaginable to think that an earthquake could shake anything up there. But now it has.

Now that I think about it, there were no tornadoes or earthquakes in these parts for at least 40 of my last 55 years here. The earthquake, brand new to us, hit last summer. But before that, we had two tornadoes.

The first came in 1995, hit on the street where I live in East Hampton at 3 a.m., tore the roof off the East Hampton Marina boathouse 200 yards from my house, then skipped across to my property, took away the chimney top and then ripped out the beautiful tree house I’d put up in an old maple in the backyard for the kids the year before. Then it went back up in the air and slammed back down eight miles to the west onto Main Street in Bridgehampton, just to the west of the town monument. It clattered up Main Street, took down a greenhouse building attached to Thayer’s Hardware, uprooted trees and lifted off, just 50 yards short of where our office was, never to be heard from again. I thought this tornado, after we all learned what it had done the next morning, was after me personally for sure.

The second tornado first touched down in the Connecticut Valley two summers ago, came across Long Island Sound and cut a swath through Northwest Woods and northern Springs, again not far from where I live. It did cross Springs a mile north of my place, though. A bad shot.

But an earthquake in Maine? What the hell is the earth angry about? What have we done? Well, we now get both the anxious days to wait for the disaster and the unexplained disasters that come without warning.
It’s a whole new, uh, world. Look out now for tsunamis.

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