Reminders of Washington, D.C., earthquake linger on anniversary

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WASHINGTON — One year after a rare magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the Washington, D.C., region, the Washington Monument remains closed for repairs and other reminders are still visible: netting hangs from the ceiling at Union Station and scaffolding is still in place at the Washington National Cathedral.

The Washington Monument could stay closed until 2014 as it undergoes $15 million in repairs. Restoration of the cathedral, one of the hardest hit buildings, is expected to take five to 10 years at a cost at least $20 million.

The D.C. area will mark the one-year anniversary with a number of events, from the ringing of bells at the cathedral to schools holding earthquake drills at 1:51 p.m., the time of the temblor.


Howard Evergreen, who works in Louisa County, Va., the earthquake’s epicenter, isn’t planning to commemorate the anniversary.

“We just want it to all go away,’’ he said in an interview, describing residents as still edgy from the spate of aftershocks.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, who brought in earthquake damage specialists from the West Coast to help assess the damage, expects the recovery to take years.

Students at two damaged Louisa County schools are still meeting in trailer classrooms, with new schools not expected to open sooner than summer of 2014. Repairs to the Washington Monument are expected to begin this fall. At Union Station the netting prevents loose plaster from hitting travelers during repairs.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that as much as one third of the U.S. population may have felt the earthquake, more than any other earthquake in U.S. history, with reports coming from southeastern Canada to Florida.

The quake caused an estimated $200 million to $300 million in damage, according to the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium.


Several small earthquakes occur every month in the eastern U.S., but the Aug. 23, 2011, temblor was among the largest in the region in the last century, according to the geological survey.

In Virginia, about 6,400 homeowners and renters received nearly $16.5 million from FEMA, while local and state governments received more than $31 million to help repair buildings and infrastructure, according to the governor’s office.

The National Cathedral remains open and the building has been deemed structurally sound by engineers, according to spokesman Richard Weinberg, though netting remains in place in the nave as a precaution against possible falling debris.

The cathedral will mark the anniversary by beginning the restoration with masons setting a newly carved stone into one of the damaged pinnacles from the 300-foot-high central tower. The cathedral has raised about $3 million, most of which has been spent to stabilize the structure.

Officials plan to gather near the Washington Monument on Thursday and use the anniversary to call attention to the first Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake drill, planned for this fall. The drill, similar to those that have been held in California, will give residents of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, an opportunity to learn an expression familiar to Californians: “Drop, cover and hold on!’’

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