A 5.9 magnitude earthquake, which lasted 45 seconds, rocked the US East Coast Tuesday afternoon, hitting areas from North Carolina to as far north as Ottawa, Canada.
The earthquake, which hit at about 1:51 p.m. ET, measured a preliminary 5.9 and lasted up to 45 seconds, according to the US Geological Survey. It shook office buildings and homes and rattled residents.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) warned of aftershocks.
Earthquake epicenter was reported about 4 miles southwest of Mineral, Virginia, near Richmond, Virginia, and about 80 miles south of Washington, D.C.
The earthquake in Virginia felt in Washington, New York City, North Carolina.
Witnesses reported a low rumble that grew to distinct and sustained shaking, rattling windows and fraying nerves.
No people injured were reported after earthquake hit.
Federal officials say two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia, were automatically taken offline by safety systems around the time of the earthquake.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint say their networks were congested as the quake sent people scrambling for the phones. Twitter lit up with personal earthquake reports up and down the East Coast.
The earthquake was one of the largest ever recorded in the Washington, D.C., area. [googlead tip=”vertical_mare” aliniat=”dreapta”]
The depth of the quake was only 0.6 miles which partly explains the widely felt shaking.
“On the East Coast you have this old, hard, cold crust that does a lovely job of transmitting the waves … the energy. … This large of an eathquake could definitely have been felt hundreds of miles away,” said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the USGS.
“Central Virginia does get its share of minor earthquakes, but an earthquake of this size on the East Coast is certainly very unusual,” said seismologist Karen Fischer of Brown University.
“Virginia is not on an active earthquake fault and is roughly in the middle of the North American continental crustal plate. But it has residual fault scars left over from 200 million to 300 million years ago, when it was an earthquake zone, at the time when the Atlantic Ocean rifted apart from Europe. An earthquake that registered 3.9 hit in 2003 was followed by a 4.5 that same year,” she said.
“We are just seeing pressure build up and release on those scars. There is a lot of debate on exactly what is going on down there and exactly how quakes this big happen in this kind of crustal zone.”
“Because the crust under the East Coast is colder and firmer than the West Coast, shocks travel more efficiently through it, accounting for the widely felt shaking.”
[googlead tip=”lista_mare” aliniat=”stanga”] Karen Fischer said the shallow depth of the Virginia quake is only a first estimate and will likely be revised.
“One lesson of this quake is that building codes will likely need to be revisited on the East Coast,” Fischer said.
“Because we are not as conscious of earthquakes here as the West Coast, we will have to see about structural damage to buildings, although I have not heard any damage reports so far.”
David Oppenheimer, a seismologist for the USGS at the Earthquake Science Center in Meno Park, California, said Tuesday’s temblor was not expected “in fact, we don’t even know about the faults in that part of the world.”
David Oppenheimer also said the earthquake is a big concern because the infrastructure in the region is not build to handle the shaking.
“This is the kind of thing that we worry about, infrequent large earthquakes in highly population areas with an old inventory of brick buildings, structures built before there were earthquake codes,” he said.
“You put this earthquake under a more urban area you would have had perhaps loss of life and more damage.”
Officials in the region scrambled to evacuate buildings.
The control towers at John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports were evacuated by the Federal Aviation Administration as a precaution, an FAA spokesman said. Flights out of both airports were canceled.
People from the State Department building in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington were evacuated too.