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The Epicenter in the Backyard

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Unpreventable and unpredictable, natural disasters strike fear in the hearts of man and beast alike — unless you happen to be a member of the Ford family or its two Shih Tzu dogs.

The 2.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the Short Pump area July 6 rattled the Ford family's home just before midnight. The picturesque modern colonial house on Hidden Oaks Court is located at 37.639Aø north, 77.635Aø west — precise ground zero for the quake, according to the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory. 

Kim Ford, 20, was watching TV in bed when her “room started shaking.” The Radford University student thought someone had broken into the house, so she ran down the hall to her 16-year-old brother, Zac.

Relying on his razor-sharp reflexes, honed on video games, Zac Ford grabbed his pocket knife. The siblings called off their search when they realized the family's two yippy, high-strung Shih Tzu dogs — a breed that takes so much as a gentle rap on the front door as nothing less than a call to arms — hadn't even stirred. 

“They were out cold,” Kim Ford says. So was Ford's mom, Melanie. Her dad, Mike, shrugged off the commotion and went back to bed.

“We came to the conclusion that it must have been an earthquake,” Kim Ford says, shrugging. “We didn't really care.”

But local media did. Channels 6 and 8 both arrived early the next morning to debrief the Ford family.

It's then that Kim Ford says she had her real brush with disaster. ”I said the most stupid things on TV,” she says. “I stuttered or something and made weird expressions.”

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