Earthquake Rattles Cecil County Commissioners; County Building Evacuated

August 23, 2011

It took an act of God—an earthquake—to silence the Cecil County Commissioners Tuesday, as the quake shook chairs and made the county office building sway while the local lawmakers were meeting to discuss broadband/Internet issues. Commissioners, county employees and citizens all evacuated the building for about a half hour as county workers checked the building for possible damage.

Richard Brooks, the county’s director of emergency services, was in the commissioners’ meeting room when the quake hit shortly before 2 p.m. He jumped up from his seat, saying, “This is not good,” before rushing out of the room to head down the street to the county’s emergency command post.

Then a county employee rushed into the meeting room to announce, “We’re evacuating the building” and commissioners and others then walked the short distance to the main door of the building to wait outside for further instructions.

County Administrator Al Wein was subsequently whisked away in an emergency services vehicle to visit the command post to obtain first-hand information on the situation.

After returning to the county administration building, Wein said the earthquake, based in Mineral, VA, registered a 5.9 on the Richter scale of severity. The Cecil County health department building on Bow Street sustained come cracks, he said, and the building was closed to allow inspections and assessment of the damage. The county’s aging Circuit Court building was closed for the day as inspections for possible damage were made, Wein added, although initial inspections did not find problems.

Wein said there was an initial report of some damage at an assisted living facility that sustained damage to walls. There were no initial reports of any injuries.

Later in the day, county schools employees were notified that schools would not open as scheduled on Wednesday to allow thorough inspections of all schools for possible damage and safety issues.

During the evacuation of the county administration building, people milled about outside in the glaring sunshine, with many trying in vain to call family and friends. Cell phone service was largely unavailable as cell networks were jammed with people trying to make calls.

On Facebook, Cecil County residents reported their experiences and where they were at the time of the quake but none of Cecil Times’ many friends reported first-hand knowledge of any damages.

In Earleville, one local resident reported that a Chesapeake Bay-front house shook and the dining room chandelier swung back and forth from the vibrations. But the family’s two dogs seemed undisturbed by the earthquake event.

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