A strong magnitude 5.8 earthquake strikes Virginia, sending tremors up along the East Coast and causing the Capitol, the Pentagon, downtown D.C. and parts of New York City to be evacuated.
From Libyan rebels to 2012 presidential candidates, news often breaks on Twitter – and Tuesday's earthquake was no different.
Disclaimer to non-Twitter users: hashtags are words tagged with a # that link to a landing page that lists Tweets from other users using the same hashtag. This is a quick way to find out what others are saying about the same topic.
As ordinary citizens quickly took to Twitter accounting their personal experiences in homes and offices in Washington D.C., Pennsylvania and New York, government agencies and leaders respectively took to Twitter to assuage nerves, update Americans and most importantly, avoid panic.
Following the earthquake, the White House used the earthquake as an opportunity to remind Americans to stay prepared on what to do in an emergency situation, Tweeting: “ #DCQuake serves as a reminder to get prepared. @fema on what to do during/after: 1.usa.gov/pRa7WI & statement: bit.ly/ruhJVw”
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In addition to receiving information, Americans were encouraged to relay information via Twitter. In fact, the Department of Justice advised Americans rely on social media instead of more traditional forms of communication, such as phone calls.
The White House added:
While the earthquake was not confined to New York and sparked nation-wide fears, the quake's timing, just weeks before the tenth anniversary of September 11, frazzled New Yorkers especially.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg took to Twitter to calm Big Apple residents' nerves, Tweeting the following:
3:21 p.m.: "Like people up and down the East Coast, NY'ers across the 5 boroughs felt this afternoon’s earthquake" followed by a series of calming and informative Tweets.
3:23 p.m.: "I’ve spoken w/ our Police and Fire Commissioners & we’ve activated the Emergency Management Situation Room"
3:25 p.m.: Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in NYC at this time
3:27 p.m.: As ever, we urge New Yorkers to call 911 only in cases of actual emergencies
3: 29 p.m.: I will provide an update at 4pm at City Hall. Watch live on nyc.gov and NYC-TV Channel 74
Once the panic subsided, Twitter became a medium of levity and humor. Call it "laughter shock therapy," but a number high profile accounts released satiric Tweets, including this one by fictional Harry Potter character, Professor Snape.
"US cell phone services busy due to the #DCquake? That awkward moment when owls are a more efficient form of communication."
The Harry Potter character's Twitter account boasts nearly 200,000 followers.
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