Eastern US earthquake radiates across Twitter

Well, I had a choice of where to put this post as I write Terra Sigillata hosted on a server at the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC, and here at PLoS in San Francisco.

Yes, folks, this post is safer being hosted in San Francisco.

I was just sitting in my 2nd floor office at about 1:52 pm EDT when I felt what seemed like an industrial compressor being roughly wheeled down the hall. However, the building shaking continued for what I figure was about 15-18 seconds.

As we now know, the earthquake was a magnitude 5.8 or 5.9 and centered around Mineral, Virginia, about halfway between Charlottesville and Richmond. I hope things are okay with my friends at University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

You folks on the US West Coast and Japan are used to this and I see many of you laughing at us (as is my office neighbor from southern California).

But what I found interesting is how fast news of the quake traveled on Twitter and how I was able to watch news of the quake on my stream radiate from the epicenter. When I look at the 2,000+ people I follow, I am heavy on people from Washington, DC, the Research Triangle area, and New York City.

So, it made sense that the first two tweets on my stream came from Andy Carvin and Scott Hensley at NPR in Washington.


@scotthensley: Earthquake?

Next were:
Jamie Vernon in Bethesda, MD.
Brian Romans at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
Nicky Penttila, Washington, DC.

Then it got here:
Phil Buckley, Raleigh, NC.
Ayse, Chapel Hill, NC.

Interesting, still nothing from the 100+ people I follow in New York City:
Phoebe Connelly, Washington, DC.
Brooke Cain at the News and Observer in Raleigh, NC.
Rene and newprof in Baltimore, MD.
Brianne Villano, Durham, NC.

Andy Carvin then comes back to say it’s been shaking for more than a minute in DC.

Still nothing from New York City:
Jeni Lowrance, Greenville, NC.
Me, Durham, NC.
Sally Green at UNC-Chapel Hill.
HHMI News Office, Chevy Chase, MD.

Then, my first from New York: Baratunde Thurston with,

my building in soho is seriously sharking #earthquake

Then, Julie Meloni at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, my closest follower to the epicenter:

that was the longest quake i’ve ever felt, and I lived in california for 15 years.

Then I got Eric Ferreri at Duke, John Mack in Newtown, PA and Hudsonette in New York City.

And get this: Scott Gavura in Toronto.

Then, Ashley Luthern in Youngstown, OH.

Lisa Barone, Troy, NY.

Finally, all hell broke loose in NYC beginning with Christopher Mims and Christine Gorman.

There’s obviously an easier way to do this and it would be fun to map the public Twitter feed. The timing of the tweets above was difficult to nail down since I don’t have resolution to the second on Tweetdeck. However, the span of the tweets above was about two-and-a-half minutes.

I just found it interesting to have such a concentration of tweets in the DC and Research Triangle areas, about 100 and 180 miles on either side of the epicenter, well before seeing the tweets from the New York City area.

What did you find in your Twitter feed?

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