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5.9 Quake Hits Virginia

| August 23, 2011
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The quake was felt far and wide, according to the twittersphere. Even out here, a 5.9 is nothing to sneeze at. As far as reaction Back East goes — I can only hope my mother didn’t jump into her Bloomingdale’s shopping bag in New York City.

Here’s the USGS report. Didn’t know there’s a Virginia Seismic Zone. Here’s a list of earthquakes in the state from Wikipedia.

Twitter is all a-twitter, natch…




Here’s AP’s report:

MINERAL, Va. (AP) — Tens of millions of people from Georgia to Canada were jolted Tuesday by the strongest earthquake to strike the East Coast since World War II. Three weeks before the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, office workers poured out of New York skyscrapers and the Pentagon, relieved it was nothing more sinister than an act of nature.

There were no known deaths or serious injuries, but cracks appeared in the National Cathedral, and three capstones broke off its tower. Windows shattered and grocery stores were wrecked in Virginia, where the quake was centered. The White House and Capitol were partly evacuated.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8. By West Coast standards, that is mild. But the East Coast is not accustomed to earthquakes at all, and this one unsettled some of the nation’s biggest population centers.

In New York and Washington, people said their thoughts were of an explosion or terrorist attack. In some cases, workers in Washington mentioned the tremors in phone calls to colleagues in New York, and seconds later, the shaking reached there, too.

“We thought it was a bomb at first because everyone has 9/11 on the brain and that it’s so close to September and the 10th anniversary,” said Cathy McDonald, who works in an IRS office in downtown Washington.

Hundreds of people spilled out of the federal courthouse blocks from ground zero, workers in the Empire State Building rushed into the streets, some having descended dozens of flights of stairs.

“I thought we’d been hit by an airplane,” said one worker, Marty Wiesner.

Adrian Ollivierre, an accountant who was in his office on the 60th floor when the shaking began, said: “I thought I was having maybe a heart attack, and I saw everybody running. I think what it is, is the paranoia that happens from 9/11, and that’s why I’m still out here — because, I’m sorry, I’m not playing with my life.”

The quake was felt as far north as Toronto, as far west as Indiana and Kentucky and as far south as Atlanta and Savannah, Ga. It was also felt on Martha’s Vineyard of Massachusetts, where President Barack Obama, who is vacationing there, was getting ready to tee off in a round of golf.

The White House said there were no reports of major damage to the nation’s infrastructure, including airports and nuclear facilities. Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Virginia were automatically taken off line by safety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant is in the same county as the quake’s epicenter, about 80 miles southwest of Washington and 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va.

The Park Service closed all monuments and memorials on the National Mall, and ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airport outside Washington. Many nonessential workers in Washington were sent home for the day. The Capitol was reopened by late afternoon for people to retrieve their things.

At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built until the building itself was shaking, and people ran into the corridors of the complex. The shaking continued, to shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!” The main damage to the building, the largest single workspace for the federal government, came from a broken water pipe.Richmond.

Update 12:20 p.m. Here’s a report from KQED’s own Dan Brekke, who felt the quake Newark Airport in New Jersey, where he was getting ready to fly back to the Bay Area.

I was sitting in terminal C at Newark’s Liberty International Airport and there was a long, very gentle shaking which I thought was an airplane moving. It slowly gathered strength to a point where the TV monitor (at the gate) was shaking. People were looking around, not panic, just, was this really an earthquake? I didn’t hear anybody gasp, I didn’t hear anybody scream, it was a very subdued reaction.”

It lasted longer than any California earthquake I’ve felt in 30 years.”

Brekke’s son works in Manhattan, next door to the stock exchange. Nobody else in his office had ever felt an earthquake before, Brekke said. “They were seriously freaked out about it,” he added.

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  • harold

    Right near the Lake Anna nuclear power plant.