East Coast Earthquake Felt Throughout Cell Service, Social Media

on August 24 2011 1:05 PM

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit near Richmond, Virgina on Tuesday sent tremors as far afield as Maine and South Carolina, but the waves of disturbance in cyberspace were worldwide.

One of the first (temporary) casualties was cell service, with all major wireless carriers reporting gaps in coverage. However, it was unclear whether this was caused by any direct disturbance attributable to the quake itself, or if the networks were merely overloaded by the sudden increase in call volume.

“We have no reports of network damage but we are seeing heavy call volumes, ” an AT&T spokesperson said via email to the New York Times.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson told The Wall Street Journal that Verizon's network saw a surge in call volume for the first 20 minutes after the earthquake struck, though it has returned to normal service, and a Sprint spokesperson told the Journal that Sprint was encouraging customers to send text messages to family members and friends, rather than call, to ease any additional pressure on its network.

“T-Mobile’s network is experiencing higher call volumes in all areas affected by the earthquake, tweeted @TMobile. We advise customers to use SMS or e-mail.”

Indeed, aside from cell service, there was no shortage of electronic communications -- especially from Twitter, which recorded the quake reactions for immediate benefit as well as posterity.

Gotta love Twitter, wrote @zephoria (a. k. a. danah boyd, of the Boston-based Microsoft Research New England). The building shakes. Everyone immediately gets on Twitter to confirm that they're not hallucinating.

“An #earthquake of this strength is NOT normal in this area, tweeted @SamChampion, the weather anchor of Good Morning America, also advising that airports, railroads, bridges and structures will need to b checked in quake zone.”

#SecretService rushing people out of WH and into Lafayette Square. Most people calm, said reporter Norah O'Donnell of CBS News.

The Jersey Shore stars also dutifully reported on the situation in their region. Omgggg we just had a frickn earth quack !!!!! I'm freakinggg out! wrote @DeenaNicoleMTV. 2012 is near, I knew it! tweeted @Sn00ki (Nicole Polizzi). I hope everyones okay!!!

Federal officials report that in wake of earthquake all jokes have been exhausted, tweeted @jdickerson, a. k. a. political analyst John Dickerson of CBS News. Joke backup systems dangerously stretched.

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