Though Phillip Young filed out of the mall as he saw others leaving, the 25-year-old Columbia resident said his reaction was the opposite of Allison's.

"It was kind of fun," Young said. "I wasn't scared at all. I was on the phone. I saw the railings and the ceiling shaking. If someone told me there was an earthquake coming, I'd be scared. For some reason I wasn't."

The earthquake was nothing new for Tom O'Donnell, who felt the tremors at the downtown Columbia post office in the American City Building. Having relocated to Columbia from San Francisco, he immediately recognized why items at the post office were moving back and forth.

"The postmaster said, 'What is this?' I said, 'Oh, it's an earthquake,' " the 65-year-old recalled. "I could feel within a couple of seconds that it wasn't going to get any worse. I've had some similar to this."

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Earthquakes are rare in Howard County, according to Jennifer Stott, a geologist at Howard Community College. She explained that earthquakes always occur along a fault, which is a break in rock along which movement occurs. Most often, she added, earthquakes happen when two tectonic plates interact.

"We're located in the middle of the North American plate … and most earthquakes occur along plate boundaries," Stott said.

She added: "When we do have them, they're not going to be very strong."

At least one county business tried to make the most of the earthquake.

Nate Hynson, a floor manager at the Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, said the quake was all the employees were talking about when he arrived at work, and it even gave the restaurant a unique advertising opportunity.

Iron Bridge sent out an email late Tuesday afternoon advertising "Steaks and Quakes" night. In addition to its normal $20 Tuesday steak dinner special, the restaurant offered 5.9 percent off all wine-to-go purchases. (The earthquake was originally reported as 5.9 magnitude.)

Around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hynson said the restaurant was busier than usual, with people waiting for tables.

On Tuesday evening, county officials reiterated assurances that "no significant damage or injuries have been reported," but warned residents that aftershocks could occur. In fact, aftershocks did occur — as late as early Thursday morning — although not strong enough to be noticed by many in Howard County.

In a news release, the county suggested that residents inspect their homes for earthquake-related damage, such as unusual or new cracks in ceilings and walls, doors and windows that won't open or shut, and cracks or leaks in water, gas or sewer lines.