5.8 magnitude earthquake hits Virginia, rattles East Coast

Heavy EngineeringDisasters and AccidentsNuclear PowerManufacturing and Engineering

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 struck near Washington, D.C., the U.S.Geological Survey said.

The epicenter was about 40 miles northwest of Richmond and about 85 miles southwest of Washington, at a depth of about 1 kilometer, according to the USGS. A quake of that size and at a shallow depth can produce shaking intense enough to move heavy furniture and cause slight to moderate damage in well-built structures, according to the USGS.

The North Anna nuclear power station, in central Virginia a few miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, lost power following the earthquake and is on reserve power to keep nuclear fuel cool, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. The two reactors at the plant automatically shut down following the earthquake but it is not known if the plant has sustained any damage, the agency said. There has been no release of nuclear material, Louisa County spokeswoman Amanda Reidelbach said.

Ten nuclear power plants in four states have declared "unusual events" following the earthquake in Virginia, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said. The alert is the lowest of four nuclear emergency declarations. The plants are the North Anna and Surry plants in Virginia, the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland, the Three Mile Island, Susquehanna, Peach Bottom and Limerick plants in Pennsylvania and the Oyster Creek, Hope Creek and Salem plants in New Jersey.

All U.S. capitol complex buildings have been evacuated following the earthquake felt in the Washington area. The FBI headquarters building in Washington was among those evacuated after the earthquake Tuesday. A couple of minor injuries and some minor structural damage have been reported in Washington following Tuesday's earthquake, United States Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said.

Pentagon safety officers have examined the building following Tuesday afternoon's earthquake and it has been judged safe for occupation, Pentagon police have told employees. A "considerable amount" of water from a water pipe broken in the earthquake has flooded two corridors of the Pentagon, according to an announcement in the building. People who work in those areas are being asked to stay in their offices while workers try to repair the damage.

The magnitude-5.9 earthquake centered in eastern Virginia Tuesday "could definitely be felt hundreds of miles away," said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Lucy Jones.

The historic Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington has cracks in the interior walls by the earthquake, but there is no indication of structural damage at this point, Secretary Wayne Clough said. The building will still need to be evaluated, he said.

Part of the central tower of the National Cathedral, the highest point in Washington, D.C., was damaged, according to spokesman Richard Weinberg. "It looks like three of the pinnacles have broken off the central tower," Weinberg told CNN.

All national monuments and parks in Washington are "stable but closed" following Tuesday's earthquake, a United States Park Police spokesman said.

Amtrak is reporting service disruptions between Washington and Baltimore because of the earthquake, the company reported on Twitter.

Light structural damage has been reported in Culpepper and Orange counties in Virginia, said Laura Southard of the state Emergency Operations Center. She said there have been no reports of injuries in Virginia, the state where the earthquake was centered.

There are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York due to the earthquake, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The last time a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Virginia was 1897, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading