We get lots of earthquakes on the east coast but not many that are strong enough to notice. I was in a meeting when our sub-1 minute of earthquake hit. At first it felt something like the shaking from a heavy truck driving by, allowing a moment of sheer denial. Nah, this can’t be an earthquake! But then it got more pronounced and we all realized, yes indeed it was a real earthquake.
“The building is being evacuated,” co-workers called out. I grabbed my bag and cycling shoes and rounded up colleagues who hadn’t gotten word we should leave. After maybe 15 minutes of waiting on the sidewalk we learned that our office was closing. The street started filling with traffic. Cell phones weren’t working, and texts and emails weren’t getting through. It was hard to know what to do. Wait til the traffic dies down? Get going now? Would public transit stay open? Would there be any after shocks? Was it no big deal, or was there worse yet to come? Some coworkers headed out to walk home, others got in their cars. Claire went back into the office to get her bike and I got mine from the building’s garage.
My plan was to ride to Union Station in hopes of catching a MARC train home. I’d finally made contact with John and knew he’d also felt the quake and that his office near Baltimore had evacuated briefly but stayed open. If I couldn’t get a train, I figured I could cycle up to Silver Spring and work out what to do next.
I set off on a car-packed 23rd St NW. As bumper-to-bumper as the traffic was, with all the shouting, honking, and lane blocking, I am sure it was the best choice to make. Cars were pretty much not moving. Bicyclists, me included, went creative, weaving through traffic, portaging on sidewalks and walking when necessary.
Not surprisingly there was massive crowding and delays at Union Station. With cancelled trains, evacuation of the station, everyone sent home from work at once, it was inevitable that it took a couple of hours to get home from there. Truly had I a route planned out, I’d have been just as well off to bike home. Note to self: plot out a route from DC to Baltimore!
Slow as it was, being on a bike was the way to get around post-quake. People who drove reported 3+ hour trips home, most of it spent trapped in the city. Metro and bus riders had similarly long commutes. Though it was not fast travelling by bike, I could have been out of the city in less than an hour. Lessons learned: keep a change of clothes, a snack and a full water bottle handy. You never know when you might need them!