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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rare Earthquake Hits Virginia, Rattles U.S. East Coast

Crowds of evacuated workers in Manhattan are seen after an earthquake.
Evacuees crowd Manhattan streets after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the U.S. East Coast.
Photograph by Justin Lane, European Pressphoto Agency
Ker Than
Published August 23, 2011
The magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia today was a rare but significant event for the region, according to one quake expert.
"It was quite sizable," said seismologist Hua-wei Zhou of Texas Tech University.
The Virginia earthquake struck at about 1:51 p.m ET near Mineral, Virgina, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Richmond (map).
The tremors shook buildings and prompted evacuations as far away as Washington, D.C., and New York City. The quake was followed by a magnitude 2.8 aftershock 45 minutes later.
(Related: "Japan Earthquake Vibrations Nearly Reached Space.")
Earthquakes rarely strike the U.S. East Coast and are generally less severe when they do.
Before this latest quake, for example, the largest earthquake on record in central Virginia was a magnitude 4.8 temblor that occurred in 1875, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Eastern Earthquakes Smaller But Farther Reaching
Earthquakes are rare in the eastern U.S. because the region is farther from a plate boundary—a region where tectonic plates meet and grind together. The closest such boundary is several hundred miles away in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea.
By contrast, California has a major fault line, the San Andreas fault, running vertically through most of the state, Zhou explained.
(See "Mexico Earthquake Zone Linked to California Faults.")
Plate boundaries are especially prone to earthquakes because the motion of tectonic plates creates tension that can cause significant shaking when the stress gets released.
Zhou said he suspects the Virginia earthquake was due to the much less frequent release of stress from a small thrust fault in the region.
Still, earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than on the West Coast.
"A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 kilometers [300 miles] from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 kilometers [25 miles]," according to the USGS.
Being far from plate boundaries, the older and denser continental crust is much more like a solid sheet of bedrock than the fault-filled crust on the West Coast, allowing seismic waves to travel farther.
"Most bedrock beneath central Virginia was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent about 500 to 300 million years ago, raising the Appalachian Mountains," the USGS says.


Rachel Maddow

Maddow was born in Castro Valley, California. She is the daughter of Robert B. "Bob" Maddow, a former United States Air Force captain and a lawyer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and Elaine Maddow, a school program administrator from Newfoundland, Canada.She has one older brother, David. Her father is of Russian and Dutch descent and her mother is of English and Irish ancestry. Maddow's mother was raised a strict Roman Catholic, and Maddow herself grew up in a community that her mother has described as "very conservative." Maddow was a competitive athlete and played three sports in high school. Referencing John Hughes films, she describes herself in high school as "a cross between the jock and the antisocial girl."
A graduate of Castro Valley High School in Castro Valley, California, Maddow earned a degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994. At graduation she was awarded the John Gardner Fellowship. She was also the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship and began her postgraduate study in 1995 at Lincoln College, Oxford. In 2001, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in politics from Oxford University. Her thesis is titled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons (supervisor: Dr Lucia Zedner). She was the first openly gay American to win a Rhodes scholarship.
Maddow's first radio hosting job was at WRNX (100.9 FM) in Holyoke, Massachusetts, after she entered and won a contest the station held to find a new on-air personality. She was hired to co-host WRNX's morning show, The Dave in the Morning Show. She went on to host Big Breakfast on WRSI, in Northampton, Massachusetts, for two years. She left the show in March 2004 to join the new Air America. There she hosted Unfiltered along with Chuck D (of the hip hop group Public Enemy) and Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show), until its cancellation in March 2005. Two weeks after the cancellation of Unfiltered in April 2005, Maddow's weekday two-hour radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show, began airing; in March 2008 it gained an hour, broadcasting from 6 to 9 p.m. EST with David Bender filling in the third hour for the call-in section, when Maddow was on TV assignment. In September 2008, the show's length returned to two hours when Maddow began a nightly MSNBC television program. In February 2009, after renewing her contract with Air America, Maddow returned to the 5 am hourlong slot.  Her last Air America show was on January 21, 2010, two weeks before its owners filed bankruptcy.
In June 2005, Maddow became a regular panelist on MSNBC's Tucker. During and after the November 2006 election, she was a frequent guest on CNN's Paula Zahn Now. In January 2008, Maddow was given the position of MSNBC political analyst and was a regular panelist on MSNBC's Race for the White House with David Gregory and MSNBC's election coverage, as well as a frequent contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
In April 2008, Maddow was the substitute host for Countdown with Keith Olbermann, her first time hosting a program on MSNBC. Maddow described herself on air as "nervous." Keith Olbermann complimented her work and she was brought back to host "Countdown" in May 2008. The day she hosted was the highest rated news program among people 25 to 54 years old, a demographic key to ratings. For her success, the next Monday Olbermann ranked Maddow third in his show's segment "World's Best Persons".[26] Maddow filled in again on Countdown for eight and a half broadcasts while Olbermann was on vacation in July 2008 and the second half of the show on July 21. Maddow also filled in for David Gregory as host of Race for the White House.
MSNBC announced in August 2008 The Rachel Maddow Show would replace Verdict with Dan Abrams in the channel's 9 p.m. slot the next month. Since its debut, the show has topped Countdown as the highest rated show on MSNBC on several occasions. After being on air for more than a month, Maddow's program doubled the audience that hour.
Early reviews for her show were mostly positive. Los Angeles Times writer Matea Gold stated Maddow "finds the right formula on MSNBC," and The Guardian writes Maddow has become the "star of America's cable news." Associated Press columnist David Bauder said she's "[Keith] Olbermann's political soul mate" and the Olbermann-Maddow shows are a "liberal two-hour block."
Distinguishing herself from others on the left, Maddow said she's a "national security liberal" and in a different interview that she's not "a partisan." The New York Times called her a "defense policy wonk" who is writing a book on the role of the military in postwar American politics. During the 2008 presidential election, Maddow did not formally support any candidate. Concerning Barack Obama's candidacy, Maddow said during the primaries, "I have never and still don't think of myself as an Obama supporter, either professionally or actually."

 As of 2008 Maddow did not own a television set, but was committed to getting one so that Mikula can watch her show.
Maddow lives in Manhattan and western Massachusetts with her partner, artist Susan Mikula. The couple met in 1999, when Mikula hired Maddow to do yard work at her home. Maddow was working on her doctoral dissertation at the time. Their first date was at a National Rifle Association "Ladies' Day on the Range" event. Although Massachusetts recognizes same-sex marriage, as of 2009 Maddow and Mikula had no plans to marry.
In March 2010, Republican Scott Brown, the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts, speculated that Maddow was going to run against him for his seat in 2012. He used this premise for a fundraising email that read "...The Massachusetts political machine is looking for someone to run against me. And you're not going to believe who they are supposedly trying to recruit — liberal MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow." Maddow said Brown's speculation was false. On her March 23, 2010, TV program, Maddow said, "I have the best job in the world. I am not running for office. Scott Brown didn't ask me if I was running or planning to run for office, before he wrote a fundraising letter with my name. No, it's completely made up by him." Despite her comments, the next day Brown continued along the same line, telling a Boston radio station, "Bring her on." To help put an end to the matter, Maddow ran a full-page advertisement in the Boston Globe confirming she was not running, and separately demanded Brown's apology. She added that despite repeated invitations over the months, Brown had refused to appear on her TV program.