Ten Things You Should Know About the East Coast Quake

By Veronique Greenwood | August 23, 2011 3:48 pm

(1) First of all, in case you didn’t feel it, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Mineral, Virginia at 1:51 pm.

(2) It was felt for miles around—as far away as Boston, with more reports pouring into the USGS every minute.

(3) The shaking lasted around 30 seconds in Washington, DC, according to the NYT liveblog, where the Capitol and the White House evacuated. No damage or injuries have been reported yet. The video above is the only one so far to show any damage.

(4) It’s the biggest earthquake to hit the East Coast since the 1890s—there was a 5.9 in 1897 in Virginia—and the third-largest since the USGS started keeping records; a 7.3 in 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina was the strongest.

(5) Judging from preliminary USGS data, the quake was unusually shallow—about 6 kilometers below the surface—which may explain why the shaking was so dramatic.

(6) Additionally, the texture of the Earth’s crust on the East Coast may partly explain why shaking was felt so far away: the Maryland Science Center quoted Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the USGS, saying that on “the East Coast you have this old hard, cold crust that does a lovely job of transmitting the waves.”

(7) In the storm of tweets that went out after the quake, @Stanford noted that Boston is actually at a higher risk of devastating quakes than San Francisco. While the city by the bay obviously has more and more severe quakes, the city is better prepared; Boston has more old buildings, constructed before modern earthquake codes went into effect.

(8) The epicenter was not far from the North Anna nuclear power plant, operated by Dominion Power. Following an automated protocol, the plant’s two reactors safely went offline when the quake struck, reports AOLEnergy, and diesel generators took over providing power until they can be started up again.

(9) Gizmodo is collecting videos taken during the quake: check out their gallery here.

(10) If you felt the quake, tell the USGS about it here, and tell us in the comments below.

  • mk

    Kensington, MD. Felt it for about 30 seconds. Seemed rougher than the Rockville, MD quake in July of this year.

  • Patrick

    Re : #3

    Might want to update. I have two photos (from people on twitter, I’ll link below) showing damage. MSNBC and many other non-news sources are reporting damage to the national cathedral, and apparently a water main broke in the pentagon, damaging parts of two floors.

    http://yfrog.com/kecn2jpj Shared by justin_fenton

    Reuters re the National Cathedral: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/23/quake-usa-cathedral-idUSN1E77M1Q620110823

    And yes, I felt it. I’m in Albany NY. Shook for around 30 seconds, clothes in the closet were swaying, and my neighbors windchime rang.

  • CS Scotkin

    While I did not feel the quake where I live in Branford, Ct., our dog started howling at the door at the time the quake struck. Our cats had been very nervous this morning when generally they are quite placid.

  • Bee

    Felt in Syracuse, shaking and the lights in the office were swinging a bit. Made me queasy trying to read until I realized what was wrong! This one didn’t seem to last as long or make as much noise as the one that originated out of Montreal last year in June.

  • Becky

    In Uniontown, PA, my building sounded like the titantic as I watched the walls move, and my husband was evacuated from his building (4-story) in Pittsburgh!
    I’m still like, whoa!

  • Greatbear

    Felt it here in Harrisburg, PA. I was on the 11th floor and it lasted for about 30 seconds.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Here in the Discover office, on the 21st floor of a building in Chelsea, Manhattan, the quake was noticeable but short (less than five seconds) and not very strong—I actually thought it was a sudden gust of wind buffeting the building. If I’d been in California, probably would’ve realized it was an earthquake.

  • Amy

    felt it in Beloit, WI (near illinois border) for a good 30-60 seconds.

  • Phoebe

    I live in Patrick County Va and it shook the house and the trees and shrubbery for a long time, at least a minute. I live in a valley, people only 15 minutes away up the mountain said it didn’t shake as much or as long.

  • http://www.andygapin.com Andy

    We felt it in Somerville, NJ. It was enough for my co-worker and I to turn to each other and say “woah! earthquake!”

  • http://www.dubhsidhestudios.com b lynch black

    there’s a ridge that runs through NYC up through the bronx…. on one side it was felt, on the other side it wasn’t.

  • MT-LA

    Didn’t feel it in California, but to all those that did feel it…

    Welcome to the club! Hope no one was hurt. Please don’t send any snowstorms our way as retaliation.

    -Matt from LA

  • Ms. West

    I was on the toilet when it happened. At first I thought I was having a vertigo spell.

  • Christine K.

    Felt it in Ship Bottom New Jersey, located on Long Beach Island. For about 10 seconds.

  • Sara

    Felt in Baltimore about 30sec! Made everyone scurry out to the streets after building alarms went off. Felt like being on a fun-house ride where the ground moves different directions for each foot and you have to traverse that! Things were clanking and some light bulbs broke. So coooool. Kinda scary!

  • christine m.

    just got off the highway in Salisbury, nc at a traffic light. My son thought my car was cutting out. I thought it was just vibrations from the bridge over the highway. Seconds later got a text from a friend in mooresville, NC asking if we felt it. It was like a big kid was bouncing around in the back seat making the whole car rock.

  • Caitlin

    “It was felt for miles around—as far away as Boston…”
    Felt it in Toronto, and apparently it was felt even in Quebec City, over 1000km away!

  • Eric

    Felt it in Clemson, SC. In our 3rd floor office there was a very distinct back-and-forth swaying that lasted quite a while. Not extremely strong, but definitely noticeable and it lasted for at least 60 seconds.

  • http://yourpalebluedot.blogspot.com YPBD

    The shallowness and proximity to power plant must have conspiracy theorists going crazy.

  • http://www.fiveoceanscon.com Marine Geophysicist

    I am in ZIP code 20136, about 70 statue miles from the pronounced epicenter. The folks who say they felt the shake for over 30 seconds are mistaken. The actual rumble was 14 seconds in Bristow. The rumble transmitted through the upper strata from southwest to northeast. No damage in this locale, other than some pictures falling off walls–they were improperly installed. I have experienced over a dozen earthquakes around the world, and some were plate boundary events while others were intraplace events, like this one. Hence, whilst neighbors panicked, I checked the NEIC website for more news. Others should learn from this–check with the folks who work on these things for a living–not the network media.

  • http://kforcounter.blogspot.com Cody

    I didn’t feel it here in Derry New Hampshire, but I have a friend who posted to facebook that he felt it in Walpole NH. I’ll let him know he should tell the USGS.

  • rick

    Did not feel it here in Waterford MI, but before we saw it on the news my son said something happend out side. The birds and bugs stoped making noise and the dogs are freaking out.

  • http://goggle Kay Teague

    I live in Greer SC, which is in the upper western part of the state. North Carolina is about 20-30 miles north of Greer. What we felt here was a rolling sensation that lasted about 30 seconds. We also felt a smaller tremor about 3 seconds after the longer tremor stopped that only lasted about 3-5 seconds. We checked with each other to make sure we both felt it but we did not leave the house.
    We have felt much smaller minor tremors before when we lived in Western North Carolina that lasted less than 15 seconds. These were more shaking than rolling like today’s earthquake. My husband is from Western North Carolina and has always been told that these “mini tremors” were good because it was releasing some of the built up pressure in the Appalachian mountains.

  • Peter

    While I was at work in Fairfax, VA, just outside DC, about a dozen flat-screen computer monitors on a shelf next to me started clacking together, which only got louder. Since I was standing up, I could feel myself start swaying and actually became nauseated. The water cooler had waves! Half-minute duration’s about right. Live in a 12-story condo building so was nervous about that. Took the stairs from the office and drove home. A few items had fallen from bookcases. This a.m. heard about possible cracks in the Washington Monument.

  • Carol

    Felt it in Laurel, MD about 2 hrs north of the epicenter. It lasted for less than a minute. Probably close to 30 seconds. Our dog was very unsettled and barked a lot the night before.

  • Cathy

    Athens, Georgia here. Felt the initial quake but it was so gentle I thought it was my vertigo returning. I didn’t realize what it was until 20 minutes later when I heard about it on the radio. No one else in the office here noticed anything. It was a very subtle rocking of my desk and my chair (we’re on concrete slab) and it felt more like someone sitting near me twitching their leg rapidly – except no one sits near me at my desk. It’s only the second earthquake I’ve ever personally felt, and the last one was a much more local 3.6 that I mistook for the foundation of the house sinking.

  • marcel

    Hanover, NH: I didn’t feel it, but everyone else with an office on the corridor in the building where I work was immediately out of there office, and in the corridor saying, “Did you feel that, what was that?”

  • jen

    I was in Amherst, MA and didn’t feel a thing :( had no idea anything happened until I looked on twitter! So disappointing

  • Bonnie Bowman

    I was at work in the hospital in Martinsville, VA- just N of the Carolina border. We could feel the floor vibrate and the overhead lights moved. I have been in larger quakes (CA) and didn’t at first notice this one. But all dudring the night on Mon. my cats cried. couldn’t figure out what bothered them. But our cats and dog in So. Boston did not react at all.

  • David

    I live in Waynesboro, and I only felt said quake for about 10-15 seconds. It was quite extraordinary as I had never been in one.

  • http://blogsdiscovermagazine Iris

    In New Jersey on the phone with customer and the lights and ground started to shake. I immediately said to customer that I think we are having an earthquake and said my goodbye.

  • Dano

    Felt it Rome, NY (Upstate). What is interesting when I googled “earthquake now upstate ny” I found this news report about quake 40 mi. north of Ottawa: http://www.9wsyr.com/content/news/breakingnews/5-0-earthquake-hits-Quebec-felt-across-Central/hjieiHHQUEC0Hc14sODVkQ.cspx I have not heard of any other media coverage on this since. AND for you conspiracy investagators what about the one earlier in Colorado – could have been an underground nuke test out west?

  • Jockaira

    When the walls start cracking, you know your vertigo’s serious. I think underground nuke tests are a thing of the past…too expensive.

    For my money, I’m gonna tune into the Truth…Pat Robertson’s Armageddon Watch at the 700 club…an earthquake and Hurricane Irene both in the same week means God is losing his patience…there must be unrest and turmoil among the unbelievers…a thirst for the Love of Jaysus. Time to Smite Them and bring them to their senses.

    This is Holy Retribution for New York’s recent succorring of Homosexuals. God is serving notice that no longer will he tolerate such behaviour from snooty East-Coast types. He let it go on in California way toooo long, now He’s getting ready to dump California into the sea…

    Watch Out New York…You’re Next!

  • Damon

    Yeah we felt the quake just barely over here in Hamilton, Ontario. Just enough to shake the tables and couch in the apartment and such.

  • Suzanne

    Have friends who say they felt it in Fredericton, NB (Canada) where some buildings were evacuated because of the shaking, and others in Windsor, Ontario! I’ve read various stories about how east coast quakes can be worse but I still don’t understand how one can shake such a large area.

  • Skye

    Some sources say that there’s scientific evidence that the earthquake was caused by a nuclear bomb underneath Washington. It’s good to consider all possibilities, if this is true, the society doesn’t need to keep worrying that this is caused by a planetary alignment that could lead to a 2012 doomsday etc.

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    Felt in Sudbury, Ontario, buildings evacuated for safety. That’s a bit further than Boston (200 km+).


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