SAN FRANCISCO — On the East Coast, people tweeted and Facebooked with expressions of surprise, worry and sometimes panic over the most powerful earthquake to hit them in decades.
The magnitude 5.8 quake, centered outside Richmond, Va., was felt across office buildings and sidewalks along the Eastern Seaboard — in places more accustomed to snowstorms than earthly rumblings. Buildings were evacuated. News networks shook off the August lull.
On Facebook, Twitter and even Google's fledging Plus network, people asked Tuesday if it was really an earthquake they just felt or perhaps Godzilla paying a visit. For many, it was the first quake they ever experienced.
Their West Coast peers, more used to such rumblings, promptly started making fun of them.
"Really all this excitement over a 5.8 quake??? Come on East Coast, we have those for breakfast out here!!!!" wrote Dennis Miller, 50, a lifelong California resident whose house in Pleasanton sits on an earthquake fault line. He said he's had a number of people click "like" on his post on Facebook — all of them from the West Coast, though.
"I haven't heard from anyone on the East Coast because they are probably still sitting under their kitchen tables," Miller said in an interview, with a laugh.
Miller added, "I wouldn't even wake up to a 5.8 if I was asleep."
On Twitter and Facebook and over email, people circulated a photo of a table and four plastic lawn chairs in a serene garden setting. One of the chairs flipped on its back. The mock image carried the title "DC Earthquake Devastation."
Even East Coasters seemed to understand. Joanne Razo, a legal assistant who lives in Washington D.C., has lived through an earthquake in Los Angeles and said she knows that a 5.8 quake is mild by West Coast standards. But for her, the scary part was not the ground shaking but that "this area is not equipped to handle anything like this."
Still, there was a sense of humor from the side of the country that's experienced its own share of natural disasters.
On Foursquare, a service that lets people tell others where they've been, users all over the East Coast checked in to made-up locations such as "Earthquakepocalypse," just as they checked in to "Snowpocalypse" during winter storms.
As with the earthquake in Japan earlier this year, many people first heard about the events on the East Coast through social networks.
Stellamarie Hall, who works for a marketing agency in San Francisco, suddenly saw her Facebook page explode with, as she put it, "East Coast people freaking out." Her company's East Coast office, meanwhile, sent out a companywide alert that travel might be affected.
"We were laughing, but we definitely understand that New York and certain metropolitan areas are not designed around earthquakes," said Hall, 26.
Hall, who was born and raised in San Francisco, has lived through several earthquakes, big ones like the 1989 Loma Pierta quake that killed dozens of people and small ones that happen several times a year.
"We're accustomed to rumblings," she said.
Of course, the tables might just turn if a freak snowstorm ever hits San Francisco.