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Posted at 02:27 PM ET, 08/23/2011

5.8 magnitude earthquake rocks East Coast: Updates from the ground


(Cracked spire at Washington National Cathedral (Laura Blumenfeld/Washington Post))
The epicenter of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit just before 2 p.m. EST Tuesday was near Mineral, 87 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The organization also cautions that the shaking may not be over.

Update: Reporter Ian Shapira is heading to the epicenter area. Which areas sustained the most damage? E-mail him at ShapiraI(at)washpost(dot)com.

Numerous buildings in D.C. were evacuated, and residents are apparently already out celebrating with an early happy hour. Our reporters are e-mailing updates from around the D.C. area. What did you see? Tell us using #quakereports .

shaking started slow then got stronger, east / west shaking lasted about 15-20 sec. quiet then crows started alex, va #QUAKEREPORTSless than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac Favorite Retweet Reply

Urgent: the 5.9 earthquake was 6 km (4 miles) SSE (152°) from Louisa, VA, 6 km (4 miles) SW (236°) from Mineral, VA #VAquake #quakereportsless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

From our reporters:

Update: We’ve closed our live coverage. For more updates, visit PostLocal.com.

4:30 p.m.: Damage in Tyson’s Corner, Va. YouTube user pauldonovan08 posted this video:

- Paul Tenorio

4:18 p.m.: “The antique wind up wall clock in our kitchen is still frozen in time from when the quake hit,” said Randy Stiles of Pasadena. “The shake was so bad, it stopped the pendulum from swinging. I just noticed it when it did not strike at 4 p.m. The movement is frozen in time.” - Ashley Halsey

4:13 p.m.: Relaxing on the fence wall in front of the White House, Monda Tajbakhsh, 54, and her friend, just off the red-eye from San Francisco, chuckled as they recanted the “state of emergency-esque” reaction in the nation’s capital to “a tiny 5-point something!” Tajbakhsh said.

She was having a cigarette outside the Hilton at 16 and K when it happened; her friend, who declined to give her name, was inside the restaurant.

They’d just arrived for a few days vacation when the quake hit.

“I said to the doorman, ‘This is a slight earthquake,’ and he said, ‘no, we don’t have earthquakes here.’ I said, ‘Look, I’m from San Francisco!’

Tajbakhsh giggled as she described seeing emergency vehicles, buildings evacuate and fleeing residents causing gridlock on city streets.

“I found it really amusing. Wolf Whatever-his-name-is was on the television! I shouldn’t take it lightly, I guess,” she said.

The women were among a typical weekday crowd of tourists in front of the White House, and said the quake hadn’t interrupted their plans to mosey around today.

“We’ll have a massage later,” Tajbakhsh said.

- Michelle Boorstein

4:03 p.m.: Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said at 3:45 p.m. that the agency is doing a “full system wide track inspection that is going to take hours.” - Dana Hedgpeth (STORY: Earthquake halts some transporation resources)

4:00 p.m.: Verizon’s network is continuing to operate in the region, but the high call volume is still causing some phone calls not to go through on the first try. Some Verizon buildings have been evacuated in Washington D.C. and Virginia. - Elizabeth Flock

3:56 p.m.: Facing severe traffic disruptions, some DC day care centers--such as Small Savers Child Development Center, located across the street from the White House--announced it would shut an hour and-a-half early. - Juliet Eilperin


(Sarah Anne Hughes/Washington Post)
3:52 p.m.: The Mount Rona Baptist Church at 13431 13th Street NW was damaged during Tuesday’s earthquake. - Sarah Anne Hughes

3:46 p.m.: The Office of Personnel Management is urging federal agencies in the Washington area to consider dismissing non-emergency workers early after Tuesday’s earthquake.

“Employees need to be aware of traffic and commuting conditions,” OPM said in a message sent to chiefs of staff and top officials at the nation’s federal agencies and departments.

OPM, which sets the operating status for federal government offices in the Washington area, said it would advise on Wednesday’s operating status by 4 a.m. tomorrow. - Ed O’Keefe

3:45 p.m.: The L’Enfant Plaza platform for Virginia bound commuter trains is almost completely full, packed with hundreds of dismissed federal employees. - Mike Debonis

3:42 p.m.: At several doors, people from platforms are shouting at each other or at people in the train to squeeze in. - Annys Shin

3:38 p.m.: I was in a restaurant on the top floor of Union Station. The floor shook followed by two or three loud explosions, then the whole building swayed.

I was being interviewed by a Danish journalist, Jonas Langvad Nillson; we both instantly assumed terrorism.

People did not panic, but everyone scrambled downstairs toward the exit. Outside, a man asked me: “Did they evacuate the building?” I said, “WE evacuated the building.”

Someone else said it was apparently citywide; I scanned the horizon -- no smoke, which seemed like a good sign.

Some people said they saw chunks of the ceiling detach and fall to the ground; that may have been the sound of explosions.

I noted noted that we left the restaurant without paying for our pizza. Jonas said: “Damn, we should have had a more expensive meal.”

When I got home, the dogs didn’t seem too frightened, but I think that, being dogs, they’d just forgotten. I say that because three antique clocks in my house -- mechanical clocks with pendulums -- had all stopped at 1:51. It must have taken a hell of a jolt to stop those pendulums. -- Gene Weingarten

3:35 p.m.: No injuries or major property damage reported in Prince George’s County, according to Charlynn Flaherty, director of public safety communications in PG (agency that receives and processes 9-1-1 calls). - Maggie Fazeli Fard

3:20 p.m.: The Loudoun County Department of Fire and Rescue is responding to multiple reports of gas leaks and gas odors across the county, including one at Leesburg Plaza on Route 7. Battalion chief Kevin Wright said the reports could be related to the earthquake or could be coincidental, but no leaks have been found. There have been no reports of major damage, he added. - Isaac Arnsdorf

3:19 p.m.: Overheard in the McPherson Square crowd: I can’t call anyone but I got a tweet out. Twitter is working! - Susana Sanchez-Young (VIDEO: D.C. residents shaken)

3:08 p.m.: A U.S. Park Police helicopter did a “preliminary survey” of the monuments by air and has not founds any “obvious damage,” spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser tweeted. - Theola Labbé-DeBose

3:05 p.m.: The scene at a local drug store:


(Damage at a Rite-Aid in Westover Village (Amy Gardner/Washington Post))

4:08 p.m.: Terry Speigner, a Democratic activist in Prince George’s who is working on the county council campaign of Arthur Turner, is trying to get back to the county for an evening campaign event. But he’s been stuck in Arlington for more than an hour, trying to head south on Route 1 towards the Wilson Bridge. “It’s a parking lot,” he said. - Miranda Spivack

4:03 p.m.: Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said at 3:45 p.m. that the agency is doing a “full system wide track inspection that is going to take hours.” - Dana Hedgpeth

4:00 p.m.: Verizon’s network is continuing to operate in the region, but the high call volume is still causing some phone calls not to go through on the first try. Some Verizon buildings have been evacuated in Washington D.C. and Virginia. - Elizabeth Flock

3:55 p.m.: Facing severe traffic disruptions, some DC day care centers--such as Small Savers Child Development Center, located across the street from the White House--announced it would shut an hour and-a-half early. - Juliet Eilperin

3:31 p.m.: Metro officials said at 3:25 p.m. Tuesday that all Metrorail trains will continue to operate at 15 miles per hour until further notice as Metro personnel “perform track inspections of the entire rail system.” - Dana Hedgpeth

3:25 p.m.: All Smithsonian buildings closed for day. - Jacqueline Trescott

3:03 p.m.: Customer service lines are down, according to @mydcwater. Tweet from @mydcwater says “still assessing.” - Miranda Spivack

3:01 p.m.: Just before 2 p.m. the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda said engineering staff were “checking the structural integrity” of all campus buildings, according to an internal email sent to employees. Once the buildings were clear, employees could go back inside and retrieve their personal belongings and leave for the day. The agency had an emergency telework policy in effect until further notice.- Dana Hedgpeth

2:54 p.m. Capitol Hill police have shut down even walking traffic at 2nd St SE, keeping all foot traffic on the east side of 2nd heading north, not allowing anyone on Independence. - Paul Tenorio

2:50 p.m.: No major injuries or property damage to report in Howard and Montgomery Counties, according to respective office of emergency management reps. Ocean City OEM director said the city felt the quake but no physical damage and no impact on coast/ocean swell as far as anyone can tell. Anne Arundel OEM said the only report of physical damage is a partial roof collapse at Safeway in Annapolis, but no injuries. - Maggie Fazeli Fard

2:46 p.m.: 2.8 magnitude aftershock reported near epicenter. More from BlogPost here.

2:46 p.m.: Source at TSA says they were evacuated and now being sent home. - Mark Berman

2:45 p.m.: On the Orange Line at the Rosslyn station, one Metro rider said the train operator announced there was an earthquake in downtown D.C. The train drove under the Potomac very slowly, and at Foggy Bottom the driver said all trains had to go 15 mph, from end to end on the metro system, according to the rider. - Dana Hedgpeth

2:44 p.m.: The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has so far had no issues. Their main headquarters building in Laurel was evacuated, but their monitoring systems have shown no problems in any facilities. - Liz Flock

2:44 p.m.: Reggie Sanders and other DC officials were standing at the MLK memorial when they felt the rumble. Sanders said his first thought was that one of the cement squares beneath him hadn’t been set properly.

“I thought it was loose like a table that’s not quite on the floor,” Sanders, a spokesman for the DC Department of Human Services, said. “Next thing you know, people were running away.” - Theresa Vargas

2:40 p.m.: Some people self-evacuated from Dulles and Reagan airports but flights are operating there, said Courtney Mickalonis, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“We didn’t find any damage in our initial checks and no injuries were reported,” she said. As of 2:40 p.m., she said some people were still waiting outside but that the buildings are open. - Michelle Boorstein

2:39 p.m.: Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. says “No major problems in ward 5. Possible after shocks.” - Jillian Sowah

2:38 p.m. Virginia police and fire authorities reported minor damages to buildings in Arlington and Fairfax counties. - June Wu

2:33 p.m.: Amtrak officials are reporting that they are inspecting the infrastructure of railroad lines in the area and will “then proceed accordingly,” according to Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman. Amtrak service is “temporarily suspended in the area around the radius of the epicenter,” Magliari said. He said Amtrak has no reports of injuries at this time. - Dana Hedgpeth

2:33 p.m. Christian Davenport uncovered this tweet from Kevin Baron, a Washington bureau reporter for Stars and Stripes who was at the Pentagon when the quake started:

Pentagon: 3rd and 4th floor, corridors 3 and 4 "large amount of standing water from a broken pipe" #earthquakewinsless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

2:33 p.m.Chancellor Kaya Henderson says all schools have been evacuated. - Bill Turque

2:31 p.m.: D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said on WTOP radio that she had not seen any damage to property downtown, though dozens of buildings were evacuated.

“I don’t see any panic or anybody rushing into the streets,” Lanier said. “People are walking out calmly, just away from the building. I don’t see any structural damage out here.” - James Grimaldi

2:31 p.m.: District Department of Transportation says on Twitter that the agency is “organizing crews to inspect bridges and tunnels post-tremor.” - Nikita Stewart

2:17 p.m. In Arlington, construction workers at a suburban home hopped away from their work and looked around, smiling nervously, as the rumbling reached a low crescendo.

Stout brick colonials, along with the leaves on the trees around them, shook furiously for a moment.

When the noice and shaking disippated, the workers shrugged. “We’re from El Salvador,” one said. “This happens all the time.”

Cell phone service for AT&T and Verizon customers was down for at least 25 minutes (as of now.) - Robert E. O’Harrow

2:15 p.m.: At the Sunrise Senior Living facility on Connecticut and Nebraska Avenues, residents took refuge on the first floor. No one was hurt.

“I didn’t feel it. Somebody told me to come with them and I did,,” said Frances Petersmeyer, 89. “I’m just docile.” - Juliet Eilperin

2:15 p.m.: Cell phones not working. Lots of dust no injuries. Immediately post office land line went down so cash only, no credit or debit. - (Corrected: Update sent from Largo Post Office) Miranda Spivack

2:14 p.m.: Blake High School football coach Tony Nazarro was driving when the earthquake struck and did not feel the tremor. But when he pulled up to the Silver Spring school a few minutes later, it was immediately apparent something had happened.

“Everyone is standing outside,” he said. “The kids think it’s pretty cool but the adults seem a bit shook up.” - Josh Barr

2:13 p.m. Union Station was evacuated. During quake, some patrons bolted for the doors. Cap Police HQ was evacuated, too. People standing arnd in big crowd. - Tweet from Del Wilber

2:09 p.m. Maryland State House in Annapolis evacuated following earthquake. - Tweet from John Wagner

2:08 p.m. “I couldn’t imagine what was falling,” said Karen Clark of Annapolis, who was standing in her dining room when the earthqauke struck. “There was lots of noise in the house. Then Dick came up from the basement and said it was an earthquake. It’s funny, we were preparing for a hurricane and we have an earthquake instead.” - Ashley Halsey

2:06 p.m. “A huge dust cloud came from the BBT building - can’t tell from the street but the people who came out of it said the back collapsed. I was at We the Pizza. The entire ground literally moved up and down - you could see it.” - Paul Kane

2:05 p.m. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Metro trains are limited to running only 15 miles per hour after an earthquake shook the area. He said they have reports of no injuries at this time and are doing “system wide track inspections.” - Dana Hedgpeth

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