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Earthquake Sensed Early By D.C. Zoo Animals

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By Christopher Shea of the Wall Street Journal

I love these details, from the estimable Joel Achenbach, of the Washington Post:

The first warnings of the earthquake may have occurred at the National Zoo, where officials said some animals seemed to feel it coming before people did. The red ruffed lemurs began “alarm calling” a full 15 minutes before the quake hit, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. In the Great Ape House, Iris, an orangutan, let out a guttural holler 10 seconds before keepers felt the quake. The flamingos huddled together in the water seconds before people felt the rumbling. The rheas got excited. And the hooded mergansers — a kind of duck — dashed for the safety of the water.

A full 15 minutes before the quake! Though I blog from an undisclosed location, I will lift the veil and say it’s in the DC metro area. Midway through the second, worse shock I bolted for a door frame, that old (accurate) bit of advice finally emerging from roiling confusion, borne of a lifetime on the East Coast: Inside? Outside? Basement?

I can’t say my nerves would have been helped if the shock had been preceded by 15 minutes of distressed-animal calls.

Relatedly, Ben Zimmer discusses the origins of the world “temblor,” a word for which the A.P. seems to have an inordinate fondness.

Read more here.

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