It was seven years ago — Tuesday, August 23, 2011, at 1:51 p.m. — that a couple enjoying lunch at the Thornton River Grille raised their wine glasses to toast the wide-eyed patrons surrounding them.
“It’s been nice knowing everybody,” the woman remarked, as the restaurant’s tables and place settings shook. In the next breath she explained she grew up in California.
The visitor knew immediately before anybody else what the restaurant-goers were experiencing — in this case a rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake, its epicenter located near the town of Mineral, 45 miles from the Rappahannock County line.
The powerful Virginia quake, which marked the first time a fault zone in the eastern United States produced a magnitude 5 or higher, was felt by more people than any other quake in U.S. history. And since that memorable day it led to the discovery of a new East Coast fault zone.
“The Virginia earthquake served as a ‘wakeup call’ for many residents of the eastern U.S.,” said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Wright Horton.
Then again, Virginia’s Piedmont was formed by such continental collisions, creating our Blue Ridge Mountains.