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.

10 thoughts on “Wednesday, 24 August 2011”

  1. Yeah, having the buidling shake when you work in a chemistry building isn’t cool. I thought immediately it was an earthquake because I’d felt a similar one once upon a time (much weaker quake that I was much closer to). I also assumed anything that would shake the building would be heard, with subsequent screaming, but we still checked over everything carefully.

    It was a fun ride. I have a dozen or so insulin needles on my desk (capped, of course) that did neat little dance.

  2. I was in California in 1987 for a CICS class at the IBM training center. I was staying in the Holiday Inn on the fifth floor. They had an earthquake at night that was severe enough to toss me out of bed. Scary when you are half asleep. Power was out but fortunately I had a flashlight with me. Something I always do since that fire in a hotel in Dallas. Fire was tot my building but they cut power to entire complex. Anyway, the quake I was in was 6.0 and was only about 20 miles from where I was staying. Scary stuff.

  3. As a native Californian the abundance of unreinforced brick and masonry buildings in the Midwest and East has always slightly bothered me when on travel there. Perhaps this will cause a building code upgrade?
    OTOH my Midwestern friends are always bothered by the lack of basement or tornado shelters out here…

  4. I doubt we’ll see any changes to the building codes. This 5.8/5.9 quake was a real monster for the east coast. I think the last time there was one of that magnitude was close to 70 years ago. We just don’t have the geology for major quakes around here.

    Folks who grew up in the midwest and plains are always amused by our concern about the small tornadoes that are typical around here. We consider an F2 to be major and an F3 catastrophic, while F3’s are routine where they’re from, and F4s and F5s occur all too frequently. Still, an F1 can kill you.

    When we redid the downstairs before my mom moved in with us, I did the kitchen (now my lab) as a storm shelter. The wall toward the back of the house is exposed brick veneer down to the floor level. The kitchen/lab wall that faces that is built with 2X8 studs on 12″ centers, with steel lolly columns every few feet. The sheathing on the exterior side of that wall is 3/4″ plywood screwed to the studs with a layer of 1″ tongue-and-groove yellow pine paneling on top of that. Yellow pine is technically a softwood, but is actually as hard or harder than white oak. It’s not a perfect shelter, especially against a strong tornado, but it’s a lot better than most people have. Barbara’s sister and her parents hide in a closet when we have a tornado on the ground.

  5. The coyote invasion is not that unusual right now. The drought in much of the US has caused “wildlife” to move into suburban areas. I’ve seen news reports on bears, coyotes, bobcats, feral hogs, etc. doing this.

    My neighborhood has had a few raptors move into the trees nearby. I noticed them flying closer to the house when I let the dogs out. We have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi (Pixie) and last year added a Toy Fox Terrier (Blaze). I suggested to my wife that we might have a problem with the little guy getting attacked. She thought that it wasn’t a problem. Well, I mentioned it to my daughter who is in training to be a licensed vet tech, and she said we needed to keep near him when he was outside. One of her instructors has had at least 4-5 calls over her career from distraught owners of toy dogs that had been taken by raptors. They even had part of a lecture on wound treatment that covered raptor injuries. So, I now have to go out with the dogs in the AM and keep Blaze safe.

  6. Update on the decline and fall of the Euro: The crisis isn’t because of out-of-control spending by feckless and profligate governments. No, no, no. It’s because of those blasted speculators.

  7. ech: Would it do any good to put a blue sweater or something on Blaze to mark him as Not Food? That works with some predators. Don’t know about raptors.

  8. Your posts over time lead me to believe that you live in a somewhat urbanized area. Do you have one of those laws that says you can’t discharge a firearm within the city limits, i.e. is the dispatch of a hungrii flea-bagius likely to provoke the local constabulary?

  9. Update on the decline and fall of the Euro: The crisis isn’t because of out-of-control spending by feckless and profligate governments. No, no, no. It’s because of those blasted speculators.

    Well, they have to blame someone. If there were an honest politician in Europe, he or she would simply say that the Euro had and has a fatal design flaw, and that nothing can be done to save it short of all of the EU nations giving up their sovereignty to a central government.

    Politicians hate markets for the same reasons that they hate the Internet. Both are beyond their control, and both expose the foolishness and impotence of politicians.

  10. Your posts over time lead me to believe that you live in a somewhat urbanized area. Do you have one of those laws that says you can’t discharge a firearm within the city limits, i.e. is the dispatch of a hungrii flea-bagius likely to provoke the local constabulary?

    Yes, we live within the city limits of Winston-Salem, which has about 250,000 people. We’re on the extreme northwestern edge, but definitely still suburban rather than exurban. There is a working farm about 400 meters from our house.

    Winston-Salem forbids discharge of any firearm within city limits. I think there’s an exception for approved shooting ranges if they’re indoor, but come to think of it every indoor shooting range I know of is outside the city limits. It’s even illegal to discharge a BB gun or pellet gun within city limits, even inside one’s own home. I’m not sure about bows and crossbows, but I suspect they’re banned as well. Regardless, if a coyote pack attacked Colin or one of the neighborhood kids, I’d shoot first and answer questions later. As they say, when seconds count the police are only minutes away.

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