This post has been updated.Epicenter was 87 miles southwest of Washington. Damage at National Cathedral; most major buildings evacuated. MARC service suspended; Metro slowed; airports open.
The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that a third aftershock has occurred in Virginia. The shock registered 4.2 magnitude at 8:04 p.m.
The National Park Service says the Washington Monument may have suffered cracks near its top during Tuesday’s earthquake, and the monument could be closed indefinitely.
Park service spokesman Bill Line said there appear to be cracks “at the very, very top” of the 555-foot tall structure, and structural engineers were being brought in Wednesday to conduct a close inspection.
Meanwhile, the historic stone obelisk at the center of the Mall, south of the White House, will remain closed, and “could be closed for an indefinite period of time,” he said.
Prince George’s County schools will be operating on code green status Wednesday, meaning 12 month employees report to work but all other employees and students are to stay home.
Stay with PostLocal.com for more updates.
An earthquake centered in Virginia struck along the East Coast at 1:51 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake was reportedly 5.8 magnitude.
Officials said the earthquake’s epicenter was near Mineral, Va., near Charlottesville, Va., and 87 miles southwest of Washington.
The director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Marcia McNutt — who watched objects falling from the shelves in her office — said
earthquakes on the East Coast do not attenuate as quickly as on the West Coast, and thus even a relatively modest tremor can shake a very broad area.
USGS reported that an aftershock of 2.8 occurred at 2:46 p.m., 5 miles south-southwest of Mineral.
Dominion Virginia Power declared an alert at the North Anna Power Station in Mineral, Va., following the earthquake. Officials said both reactors shut down safely and no major damage had been reported.
The alert is the lowest of the four emergency classifications of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Officials said no release of radioactive material occurred beyond the minor releases associated with normal station operations.
Mineral is a small town in Louisa County, population about 400 and just 250 houses.
Michelle Groom, a resident of Mineral and a member of the volunteer rescue squad, said she was driving to her house when she felt something shake her car. “I thought I hit an animal,” Groom said. “My car almost tipped over. But when I stopped I didn’t see anyone or anything in the road.”
She continued to drive to her home, where her sister, who is in a wheelchair was waiting. The house had no visible structural damage, but the contents of drawers, cabinets had fallen out, her freezer was open. Her sister had some cuts and bruises but no major injuries.
Here’s a roundup of what occured in the D.C. region in the aftermath of the quake:
Building damages, evacuations
Many offices and businesses throughout the Washington region were evacuated, including the Pentagon, the U.S.Capitol and the Maryland State House. US Capitol Police said the complex will remain closed until they have been declared safe fore reentry by structural engineers.
About 60 percent of the suspended ceiling tiles at the Potomac Library in Montgomery County caved in, chief administrative officer to Timothy L. Firestine said. The library is expected to remain closed for several days for repairs.
The tip of the National Cathedral in Washington spire crashed onto the steps on Pilgrim Road. Joe Alonso, the mason foreman at the Cathedral, said the main central tower “sustained some pretty significant damage to the pinnacles.” A press release from the National Cathedral also said that cracks have appeared in the flying buttresses at the Cathedral’s east end.
Mount Rona Church at 13th and Monroe Street NW also sustained damage, as did the Embassy of Ecuador at 15th and Euclid NW.
Utilities mostly unaffected
Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson said reportts of downed wires were minimal.
BGE spokesman Robert L. Gould also said their system was being inspected but appeared in good shape. He said there were 940 customers out of 1.3 million that were without power, similar to outages on a typical day.
Ruben Rodriguez, spokesman for Washington Gas, said though there was an increased number of calls, there were no significant outages.
Verizon Wireless said they were no reports of damage to their wireless network. There was network congestion for some customers in parts of the East Coast for about 20 minutes after the tremors, a spokesman said. Everything returned to normal quickly once the tremors ended.
T-Mobile and AT&T said they were experiencing higher call volumes in all areas affected by the earthquake.
Constellation Energy, the Baltimore-based utility and power company, said that it declared an “unusual event” at its two Calvert Cliffs, Md. nuclear power plants, the lowest of four levels of emergency. Both units continue operating at 100 percent of capacity and are “stable,” company spokesman Mark Sullivan said in an email, but the company was stepping up monitoring and inspections of its facilities.
As a precaution, the company’s Candler building in Baltimore was evacuated.
Neither of the company’s other nuclear power plants --- Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba, NY and R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario, N.Y. --- registered abnormal seismic activity on their monitoring equipment, Sullivan said.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Metro trains were limited to running only 15 miles per hour after the earthquake shook the area. Riders should expect significant delays throughout the evening. The speed restrictions are expected to stay in place for “several hours” and will “likely affect the evening commute.”
Major crowds were reported by riders at McPherson Square and at Federal Center SW as many office workers headed home. Metro said there are delays on its bus routes because of signal outages and traffic as many offices evacuate.
MARC service has been suspended until further notice.
The Office of Personnel Management urged federal agencies in the Washington area to consider dismissing non-emergency workers early after Tuesday’s earthquake.
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.
Public schools, offices
D.C. Superior Court closed early except for adult arraignments.
The earthquake struck when most courtrooms were closed for lunch breaks; jurors, court employees and attendees were outside the building.
The FBI’s Washington field office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were evacuated after the quake; the FBI’s office reopened, but the U.S. .attorney’s office has been dismissed for the day.
Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said terminal A was closed at Reagan National Airport while authorities investigated a report of gas odor.
Hamilton said operations were continuing as normal at Dulles International Airport.
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission main headquarters building in Laurel was evacuated, but their monitoring systems have shown no problems in any facilities.
A chunk of masonry fell off the east wall of the central, three-story section of Alexandria City hall, right above the polling place. Bricks fell onto an adjoining roof. The missing masronry measures about 3 to 4 feet vertically, 8 or 9 feet horizontally, right below the gutter line. City hall was been evacuated and voting in the Virginia primary election was suspended for the rest of the day.
Poll worker Trudi Pearson said that after the initial shaking, “we heard rumbling as the bricks were falling on the roof. I was afraid it was the steeple.”
DC Fire and EMS reported on Twitter that the Old Soldier’s Home at 3700 N Capitol Street, NW had sustained structural damage and was being evacuated. Occupants were being moved to other building on the complex.