At 1:41 p.m. on June 23, 2010, somewhere 18 km below the surface of the earth, under the sleepy Quebec town of Val-des-Bois, a sudden pressure release occurred, probably along reactivated faults on the failed Precambrian rift stretching the length of the West Quebec Seismic Zone.
Seismic waves rushed out in all directions, through rock and sediment, rippling up to and across the earth's surface, rolling through fields and forests, villages and cities, lakes and rivers.
The magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit Ottawa fairly hard and moved outwards, rumbling through most of Ontario and Quebec and parts of New York state.
In Ottawa, frightened people ran from buildings as first the up-and-down motion of the P waves and then the side-to-side movement of the S waves shook the city. Cell phone systems were jammed. Schools and office buildings were evacuated. Thousands of people milled aimlessly around outside government buildings waiting for the all clear from the teams that had gone back inside to check for structural damage.
And one government worker tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible among the throngs of people, seeing as she had run out of the house late that morning, dressed in a short skirt to combat the forecast hot and sticky temperatures and safe in the knowledge that even though she had not had time to shave, no one would see her unshaven legs, as she would be alone in her office all day.