Virginia quake rocks Washington area, felt in The Bronx

Posted: Updated:

(AP) - One of the strongest earthquakes everrecorded on the East Coast shook buildings and rattled nerves fromSouth Carolina to New England on Tuesday and forced the evacuationsof parts of the Capitol, White House and Pentagon.

There were no immediate reports of deaths, but fire officials inWashington said there were at least some injuries. The U.S.Geological Survey said the quake registered at magnitude 5.8 andwas centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va.

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station, in thesame county as the epicenter, were automatically taken off line bysafety systems, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. NuclearRegulatory Commission.

The earthquake came less than three weeks before the 10thanniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and in both Washington and NewYork it immediately triggered fears of something more sinister thana natural disaster.

At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built until the building itselfwas shaking, and people ran into the corridors of the complex. Theshaking continued there, to shouts of "Evacuate! Evacuate!"

The Park Service closed all monuments and memorials on theNational Mall, and ceiling tiles fell at Reagan National Airportoutside Washington. All flights there were put on hold.

In lower Manhattan, the 26-story federal courthouse in lowerManhattan, blocks from ground zero of the Sept. 11 attacks, beganswaying, and hundreds of people streamed out of the building.

Shaking was felt as far south as Charleston, S.C., and as farnorth and east as Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where President BarackObama is taking summer vacation and was starting a round of golfwhen the quake struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT.

A magnitude of 5.8 would make the quake among the most powerfulto strike the eastern United States. In 1897, a magnitude-5.9 quakewas recorded at Giles County, Va., the largest on record in thatstate.

East Coast earthquakes are far less common than in the West, butthey tend to be felt over a broad area.

"The waves are able to reverberate and travel pretty happilyout for miles," said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist SusanHough.

Amtrak said its trains along the Northeast Corridor betweenBaltimore and Washington were operating at reduced speeds and crewswere inspecting stations and railroad infrastructure beforereturning to normal.

More than 12 million people live close enough to the quake'sepicenter to have felt shaking, according to the Geological Survey.The agency said put the quake in its yellow alert category, meaningthere was potential for local damage but relatively little economicdamage.

The Virginia quake came a day after an earthquake in Coloradotoppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes inthe southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. Noinjuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.

In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitolbuilding and employees at other downtown office buildings wereasked to leave temporarily.

"The whole building shook," said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswomanfor the state Supreme Court. "You could feel two different shakes.Everybody just kind of came out on their own."

In Ohio, where office buildings swayed in Columbus andCincinnati and the press box at the Cleveland Indians' ProgressiveField shook. At least one building near the Statehouse wasevacuated in downtown Columbus.

In downtown Baltimore, the quake sent office workers into thestreets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family andfriends to check in.

Social media site Twitter lit up with reports of the earthquakefrom people using the site up and down the U.S. eastern seaboard.

"People pouring out of buildings and onto the sidewalks andInto Farragut Park in downtown DC...," tweeted Republicanstrategist Kevin Madden.

John Gurlach, air traffic controller at the Morgantown MunicipalAirport was in a 40-foot-tall tower when the earth trembled.

"There were two of us looking at each other saying, `What'sthat?"' he said, even as a commuter plane was landing. "It wasnoticeably shaking. It felt like a B-52 unloading."

Immediately, the phone rang from the nearest airport inClarksburg, and a computer began spitting out green strips of paper- alerts from other airports in New York and Washington issuingground stops "due to earthquake."U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY - VIEW/SUBMIT PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

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