Thomas Owens will never forget the initial jolt he felt from a major earthquake in Seattle several decades ago. He was only 20 or 30 miles from its epicenter.
But even that initial feeling from a magnitude 5 earthquake was less than what he experienced at zMax Dragway in Concord on Saturday, Owens told The Charlotte Observer in a phone interview from the track.
Owens has been a professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment since 1989, and also serves as its interim director.
Over the past couple of days, he has taken small groups of students in his environmental geophysics class to measure ground motion at the dragway as Top Fuel dragsters compete in the National Hot Road Association’s Carolina Nationals.
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The students are using special equipment at the start and finish lines for their seismology study. They’re collecting data through Sunday’s races and will interpret their findings back at the school in Columbia, Owens said.
“It’s a practical exercise in measuring ground motion,” Owens told the Observer.
His students typically land jobs in such fields as oil and gas exploration for the petroleum industry and for such government agencies as the U.S. Geological Survey, he said.
He also compared the jolt he felt from the dragsters at the track to what a person would feel if a lightning bolt struck nearby.
And that’s exactly what fans will feel each time the Top Fuel dragsters once again take off at the track Sunday.