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Published: Tuesday, 4/10/2007

Not a whole lot shakin'

5 p.m., Tuesday, April 10

With great excitement, I journeyed last week to Ohio s Earthquake Capital, the town of Anna.

Surely you ve wanted to visit this town too. I know you have. You re just too cool to admit it. Let me unfettered by coolness admit it for all of us. Who wouldn t want to go to Anna?

If you look at the Ohio Geographical Survey bulletin, "Earthquakes of Ohio," there is a lovely blue bull s-eye around a spot in Central Western Ohio. And the pupil of that bull s-eye is Anna -- population 1,319 -- in Shelby County.

When it comes to earthquake activity, Ohio is a pretty boring place. We must be humbly grateful for the little 2s, 3s, and 4s on the earthquake magnitude scale that occasionally give us a shake. In fact, those little 2s, 3s, and 4s are about all the excitement we Ohioans can stand. We have no envy for places like California, with its quake-inducing plate boundaries, where a 4 wouldn t even make the news, and a 3 would be no more remarked a upon than a sneeze.

But still, when you have such modest seismic accomplishments as Ohio, wouldn t you imagine a fuss attached to what exists? And given Anna s role in seismic Ohio history, wouldn t you expect a little fanfare, a little modest hoohaw marking the Anna Seismic Zone, as it is called, which centers in Anna but also includes Auglaize County with little bits of a few other counties thrown in?

There have been 40 earthquakes you could actually feel since 1875 in the Anna Seismic Zone, and six of them even did some minor damage, most recently in 1986.

The source of these tremors is a valley 400 feet below Anna. It was formed long before glaciers turned Western Ohio into the flat and featureless landscape that we enjoy today. Michael Hanson, Ohio s earthquake guru, who also runs the Ohio Seismic Network, writes that the valley was formed by the ancient Teays River. The reason Anna is so unstable is that seismic waves amplify in the thick valley fill.

The state has two other seismic zones of some note. The most active is in Northeast Ohio. But while that area has experienced 20 more quivers than Anna, Anna still wins the Severity Award, if I may event such an award right this minute. The other zone, centering on Portsmouth is hardly worth mentioning, with 10 earthquakes since 1776.

So, anyway, you can see why I have been burning to see Anna, and to appreciate how the town marks its seismic fame. I rode the many miles to Anna wondering what we would see. Would there be a gift shop? Would there be a building fixed in a sort of half-falling-down tribute to earthquakes?

Color me disappointed.

This long-awaited journey was a wash out. The problem is this: Anna does exactly nothing to declare its seismic status. There isn t a sign. There isn t a jokey store selling tacky souvenirs and T-shirts. There isn t even an outhouse slightly off plumb to note the town s geological fame.

The word sleepy was invented for Anna, and one can only guess that if another earthquake struck, the tremors would only serve to rock residents into deeper levels of slumber.

I am still recovering from my disappointment. I hardly know what to think.

If Toledo had this kind of history, we d have a parade to honor geology, possibly arranging to have a building fall down every year. Someone would market earthquake hats, adorned with buildings that fell and resurrected in time with the wearer s gait. We d milk this tourist attraction with all our desperate effort. I can see it now: Earthquake Land, World s Shakiest Amusement Park.

Oh the possibilities! Oh the excitement! Oh the tourist dollars! Alas, Anna has no such vision. Sleepy little Anna slumbers. Nothing, apparently, can shake her up.



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