In the News

Article Published: Aug. 25, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 6, 2011

Va. earthquake rattles region

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.9 occurred in central Virginia just before 2 p.m. Tuesday, rattling much of the East Coast, including portions of Watauga County.

A 2.8-magnitude aftershock and a 2.2-magnitude aftershock were also reported, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Early magnitude estimates often undergo revisions before a final figure is reached.

The 911 centers for Boone, Blowing Rock and the county reported no calls regarding damage or injury from the tremors. Throughout the county, the effects were patchy.

Vilas resident Marian McMahon said she was sitting by her computer at Bairds Creek Road when the chair started to shake.

"I turned around and half expected that my husband had snuck in and shaken my chair," McMahon said.

She said the shaking started off gentle and continued for almost a full minute.

Like McMahon, Watauga County resident Lindsay Luxton didn't immediately think "earthquake" when she felt the tremors at her office in downtown Boone.

"I could feel kind of the really quick repetitive shudders," Luxton said. "It lasted about five seconds, I guess, and I was thinking, 'My, that was really weird.'"

Blowing Rocket editor Jeff Eason said it originally felt like a strong gust of wind was hitting his office in Blowing Rock.

"I was on the second floor of the building, and I looked out a window, and there was no wind blowing in the treetops," Eason said. "For a brief moment, I thought a really large truck was rumbling by on 321. When I figured out that wasn't the case, it hit me: We must be having an earthquake. It lasted 20 or 30 seconds."

The earthquake was centered near Louisa, Va., a town of about 1,500 residents roughly 30 miles east of Charlottesville.

In Washington, D.C., the White House and surrounding buildings were evacuated, while the monuments were examined for possible structural damage.

On Wall Street, traders at the New York Stock Exchange felt the quake and shouted to "keep trading!" CNN reported.

The earthquake was felt as far north as Canada and as far south as South Carolina, various news outlets reported.

While earthquakes on the East Coast are far less frequent than on the West Coast, they are typically felt over a broader region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield award $2 million to ASU

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has awarded a $2 million grant to Appalachian State University to train health care and mental health professionals who will serve the people of North Carolina.

The gift was announced Aug. 18. When matched with state and private foundation funding, the gift will ultimately yield $4.2 million for the university.

ASU's College of Health Sciences began in July 2010, and is the first new college at Appalachian in 40 years. Programs in the college include nursing, social work, nutrition, exercise science, health-care management, speech and language pathology, health promotion, athletic training, recreation management and physical education.

Of BCBSNC's $2 million gift, a total of $1.585 million has been earmarked for the new College of Health Sciences. In addition, the gift will provide $400,000 to support the Aeschleman mental health endowed professorship in psychology and $15,000 to support Appalachian's entry in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

In recognition of the BCBSNC gift, ASU's Institute for Health and Human Services in the College of Health Sciences will be named the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Institute for Health and Human Services.

The College of Health Sciences will also initiate a lecture series and distinguished professorship and both will also be named for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Emergency exercise Aug. 27

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will be participating in an emergency exercise on Saturday, Aug. 27.

System representatives said this is only a practice exercise and will involve the following local agencies: Blue Ridge Parkway rangers, Blowing Rock Police Department, Watauga County Emergency Management, ARHS Police, Watauga County Sheriff's Office, Watauga County Rescue Squad and Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue.

Residents and visitors in the High Country may see emergency vehicles entering the property (via Summit Meadow, between U.S. 321 and the Blue Ridge Parkway), but otherwise the exercise should not interfere with the normal Saturday morning activities in the area.

Gillian Baker, vice president for corporate communications for ARHS, said, "Practicing our hospitals' responses during a disaster is a requirement from the joint commission, but also a necessary part of what ARHS does to ensure that our staff are always ready for the unthinkable."

This emergency exercise will provide exercise participants the opportunity to evaluate current emergency response concepts, medical surge response operations and law enforcement response to a location.

The exercise will also emphasize emergency response coordination, resource integration, problem identification and resolution between agencies.

Drug-sniffing dog to patrol WHS

A drug-sniffing chocolate Labrador will soon plod the halls alongside students at Watauga High School.

The dog, named Recon, was adopted from the Watauga Humane Society in the spring and is undergoing training to detect drugs of several types, Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford said.

Recon will be under the direction of school resource officer Bradley Swift and will serve mostly at the high school. He may also be used at Hardin Park Elementary as needed.

Friends of Watauga, the parent organization that serves the high school, supplied the roughly $1,000 to purchase and train the dog.

The final agreements are now being settled, and Swift will begin using the dog Sept. 13, according to the memorandum of understanding approved by the Boone Town Council Tuesday.

The town will own the dog and pay for its food and medical expenses.

The agreement also states that the school system will evaluate the K-9's usefulness at the end of the current school year and determine whether to continue the program. If Watauga County Schools doesn't want to continue, the dog will join the police department's patrol section.

For more information, visit

FARM Café fundraiser Sept. 2 in Valle Crucis

FARM Café will hold a fundraiser by selling gourmet meals, featuring local produce, during the Valle Crucis Community Park's "Music in the Valle" concert Friday, Sept. 2, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit organization's mission to create a restaurant in Boone where all people may eat regardless of their ability to pay.

Cost will be $5 for a small plate and $8 for a large plate. The concert begins at 6 p.m., featuring Sixth Floor Trio.

FARM Cafe is an outgrowth of the One World Everybody Eats movement, where people choose their own portions and price those portions themselves. This business model has received national and world-wide notoriety for pay-what-you-can prices; seasonal, no-menu, organic cuisine; living wages; minimal food waste; and healthy meals that are within everyone's financial reach.
For more information, visit or call (828) 297-1496.

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