Wednesday, 24 August 2011

08:34 – The biggest earthquake in almost 70 years hit the east coast yesterday afternoon, and I missed it. A few minutes before 14:00 local time, Colin started running flat out up and down the hall, barking insanely. I couldn’t figure out what had set him off. I didn’t hear or feel anything. A few minutes later, Barbara called to ask if I’d felt the earthquake. Earthquake? She works in a high-rise, and said her chair was going up and down. Like nearly everyone else, she thought there’d been an explosion, plane crash, or some other extreme event of human origin. We just don’t think about earthquakes around here.

We do, however, think about hurricanes. If Irene follows its projected path, it will sideswipe the North Carolina coast Saturday as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. We’re a long way from the coast, but it’s possible we’ll see torrential rains and heavy winds. The last time we had an actual hurricane in Winston-Salem was 1989, when the eye of Hugo passed directly through Winston-Salem, still as a Category 1 hurricane.

09:12 – Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that I think we have a colony of coyotes (Canis soupus) in our neighborhood. A week or so ago, the newspaper reported that animal control had shot a coyote a mile or so from our house. Last night, I had Colin out around 0130 or 0200, and we heard what sounded to me like coyotes, perhaps two or three hundred meters away. They weren’t howling, but instead making yips and sharp barks that did not sound dog-like. Colin certainly paid attention to them, more so than he normally would to the sound of distant dogs. I suspect he too noticed something unusual about the sounds.

Healthy coyotes aren’t much threat to adult humans, although they do commonly kill and eat cats and small lapdogs and they have been known to attack and occasionally kill small children. They generally steer well clear of predators that are larger than they are, particularly anything that resembles a wolf, and Colin qualifies on all counts. Still, he is a puppy rather than a dog, and a pack of coyotes might not be threatened by a puppy, even a very large one. I’ll be cautious when I have him out late at night. I doubt we’ll be attacked by a pack of coyotes, but if it happens I have an assault rifle with 30 rounds just a few steps away. Interestingly, I actually shot a coyote with that same rifle, although it’s been more than 30 years ago. It was a snap shot at a running coyote maybe 60 to 70 meters away, and it knocked the coyote rolling, dead before it hit the ground. Even a light 5.56 mm bullet at 1,000 meters/sec is pretty strong medicine against a 15 kilo coyote.