Yes, that was an earthquake.
A 15-second-lomg tremor shook much of Brooklyn at around 1:50 pm today, with the shockwaves felt from Sunset Park to Downtown, where sleepy skyscraper-confined workers like yours truly were jolted to life.
This being 2011, most of the immediate reaction came in on Twitter.
“The Department of Education building just shook, and everyone is evacuating,” tweeted MsLoveBomb.
“OMG, we just had an earthquake,” tweeted John Woody (aka iAmFASHION4ward). “The whole Downtown Brooklyn just started rocking.”
Inside the CNG Building at MetroTech Center at Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue, columnist Joanna DelBuono jumped out of her desk and calmly stated “I think that was an earthquake, and I’m outta here.”
She promptly left the room, and took the elevator — against the wishes of her concerned co-workers — to the first floor.
Downstairs, students from NYU-Polytechnic University, students and faculty gathered in the commons. People could also be seen looking curiously down from windows high above Downtown.
Columbia University seismologists measured the earthquake as a 5.9 originating in central Virginia.
“We felt that whole shockwave from there,” said seismologist Mitchell Gold.
Brooklyn is on the North American plate which runs from the center of the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. There are several smaller fault lines in the area, including two in uptown Manhattan and one in Dobbs Ferry, a quaint town along the Hudson River.
But the area has historically had little seismic activity.
In June, 2010, Brooklynites experienced tremors from a 5.0-magnitude earthquake originating from Canada, though there were no reports of serious damage.
Seismologists believe that the city is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a 5.0 magnitude about once per century, and that a magnitude-6 earthquake affects the area about once every 670 years.
In Tuesday’s event, cellphone and land-line service was briefly overwhelmed as residents rushed to talk to friends and relatives and find out what happened.
On Carroll Street in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Caitlin Deliso said she thought the disturbance was caused by nearby construction on Summit Street.
“The whole apartment was moving. Like, rocking. Some dishes were clanging a bit. It felt like when there was construction going on,” she said. “But no one was working there at that point.”
IKEA, the Red Hook furniture superstore, reportedly evacuated the Beard Street building.
Others didn’t know what to think.
“I thought my partner was rocking my chair as a joke,” said Ed Bahlman of Sunset Park, who called this newspaper at the first sign of trouble.
“But then she said she wasn’t and we realized something was wrong.”
Bahlman said he was shaken — and not just literally — by the geologic event.
“If it can happen in Brooklyn, it’s scary,” he said.
Return back for more on this quivering story.