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Major earthquake in Russia rattles TDA lab


State workers at the Texas Department of Agriculture's metrology lab in Giddings, Texas, became concerned yesterday when some of their measuring equipment started fluctuating in strange ways.

"We were puzzled by the abrupt changes and first assumed there was some sort of electrical power problem," said Harvey Fischer, TDA Metrology Coordinator.

The super sensitive scales were actually picking up tremors from an earthquake halfway around the world. On Jan. 15, just before noon CST, a 7.3 magnitude quake struck the Kuril Islands off the coast of Russia. Forty-five minutes later the shock wave created by the quake and traveling through the earth's surface was picked up at the Giddings lab.

"I always knew our state-of-the-art equipment was in great working order and sensitive to the slightest weights, but I had no idea it was so powerful it could pick up tremors from an earthquake thousands of miles away," Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.

The United States Geological Survey Center confirmed the lab was picking up tremors from the massive quake. The area of the earthquake's epicenter is sparsely populated, and there are no reports of deaths.

TDA's Weights & Measures program operates the metrology laboratory. The lab calibrates all types of standards and weighing devices to meet the guidelines of the National Institute of Standards and Technologies.

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