Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I never thought I'd be able to say "Yeah, I know what an earthquake feels like, I lived in Illinois."

Soon after it hit (and Rebecca and I verified the other was ok), Oscar and I headed off to Whole Foods to pick up some seafood for Paella. We also hung out on the Whole Foods terrace so Oscar could have a snack.

Seafood in hand, we headed home. Within a block, at 14th St., it was apparent something was up. Traffic was backed up in the southbound lanes as far as I could see.

No matter, we were taking side streets. Some of the major streets were difficult to cross because the traffic lights were broken. In some cases, the sensors were broken, so they just stayed green for one direction of traffic. Or (and this is common here), one direction was blinking red (=stop sign) and the other direction was blinking yellow (=yield sign). This is extremely confusing, everywhere else I've been, it blinks red in both directions when there is a malfunction. The people who see a blinking red, assume the other direction is also seeing blinking red, and lots of honking and near misses ensue. To add to the confusion, the direction with the blinking yellow is often the lesser of the two streets.

By the time we reached 1st and P st NW, even the side streets were clogged. A drive behind me helpfully offered "Use the sidewalk, you shouldn't be riding with a baby in this shit." So, I did. And combined with a few alleyways, was able to get home quickly.

Most buildings downtown were evacuated, and it was little surreal for Rebecca watching so many people in business dress just standing around.

The Metro was still running, but only at 15 mph while they did inspections and the buses were stuck in the traffic snarl. So what did people do to get home? Ride a bike. Here's a snapshot of the Capital Bikeshare system 2 hours after the quake (taken from TheWashCycle).

All the gray markers near downtown are empty bikeshare stations.
Apparently, many of the people who left work early chose to take bikes instead of the metro or buses. Rebecca could see a near-constant stream of them out her window after her building was un-evacuated.

By the time Rebecca took the bus home a few hours after the quake, the buses were running in a timely manner again.

This morning, lots of government offices were closed, but we didn't know that. She went to work early (so she could leave early) and the office was locked. After coming home and making a few calls, it turned out that employees had the option of taking a leave day (she hasn't accrued any yet) or telecommuting (she doesn't have the right software on her computer yet). So she ended going back to the office where there were a handful of people working.

1 comment:

Grumblebear said...

That'll teach you. This is what happens when you leave the safety of home. Stay home!