No one thought it was a temblor

An earthquake wasn’t the first culprit that many Tampa Bay area residents suspected when they felt the shaking Sunday.

Published September 10, 2006

They blamed thunder or a low flying plane. For others, a train or a sonic boom sprung to mind.

A few wondered if a night, or a lifetime, of revelry had taken a mental toll.

Thomas Rousseau didn’t know what to think at first.

He was sitting in his customary morning spot — an upturned crate in front of the Hudson Beach Mini Market — when he felt himself move slightly to the right.

“It was like a nudge,” said Rousseau, 70. “I don’t drink, haven’t in six or seven years. I said to myself, 'Jesus, what’s wrong with me?’ ”

Anna Hill had just got out of her car to head to the beach in Pinellas County. She thought her legs were shaking because she hadn’t eaten anything.

Hill, a Brandon resident, called a friend in Philadelphia.

“Dude, there was an earthquake,” Hill, 25, told her friend. “He said, 'In Florida? I didn’t think you had those there.’ I said I didn’t either.”

Ray Rafael described himself as an “earthquake veteran.”

During the 45 years he lived in California, telephone lines crashed onto his property, and, on a drive to Las Vegas, the road split open in front of him.

“I pulled over and just stared down into the chasm,” Rafael said.

But he never thought the earth would rumble beneath his peaceful home in Citrus County.

Rafael was watching TV news when he felt his bed start shaking.

“Boy, did I feel it,” he said. “I rocked.”

Bob Wainwright, 66, of Solihull, England, was wading in water up to his chest near St. Pete Beach.

“The surface was flat, and it felt like a current under the surface was pulling me toward Mexico,” he said. “It was really strange.”

Marshall Baker, 45, said he was relaxing at his mobile home in the Moon Lake neighborhood of Pasco County when he felt the jolt.

“It’s like when you have your washing machine on spin cycle and everything shakes,” Baker said. “The lamp shades were wiggling.”

He was curious about what caused the shaking but didn’t think about it again until he went shopping at the U.S. 19 flea market Sunday afternoon. There, he heard other people talking about it.

“I didn’t know what it was,” he said.

Humberto Medina, who sells music CDs at the U.S. 19 flea market, said he was working on the computer when he felt a vibration.

He came out of his booth and went to a nearby one run by Lorna Underwood. She had been sitting in her chair watching people walk by. She, too, heard something.

“I thought it was a sonic boom,” she said. “Then my boyfriend called and said 'Did you feel the earthquake?’ ”

Spring Hill resident Eileen Moran thought a spring had broken in the recliner from which she was watching television.

“I jumped because I thought the chair was about to collapse,” she said.

Erwin and Meighan Vargas live in South Tampa and experience the occasional rattle from nearby MacDill Air Force Base — but nothing like Sunday morning.

“I could feel the floor shaking,” said Meighan Vargas, 26. “That never happens.”

Erwin Vargas, 28, was just waking up when he felt his bed move. He thought the couple’s dog, Bella, had bumped the bed. But the bedroom door was closed and the dog was in another room.

“I haven’t felt anything like that since we lived in Miami and Hurricane Katrina was passing through,” he said.

Lori Salzman was working in the office of her New Port Richey home when she said it suddenly “started feeling like I was on a boat.”

“I had my hands on my desk, and the desk moved,” Salzman said.

She ran outside to ask her husband what happened, wondering whether a sinkhole had opened up. He told his wife he felt nothing.

“I guess some people are more sensitive to these kinds of things,” she said.

Compiled by Times staff writers and photographers.