Quake aftershocks continue to roll on

August 30, 2011

August is ending. Hurricane Irene has left the Washington area. The big earthquake was eight days ago. But its aftershocks linger on.

So far, it appears, there have been 19 of them. The most recent, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, came at 9:27 a.m. Tuesday. Its magnitude was 2.1, far less than the 5.8 quake on Aug. 23 that has set off the repeated shaking.

Like the Aug. 23 temblor, Tuesday’s aftershock was centered near Mineral, a small town in Louisa County in central Virginia.

Louisa is still recovering from the quake, Virginia’s largest in more than 100 years.

The aftershocks do not help. One, recorded the night of Aug. 23, registered magnitude 4.2. Another, in the wee hours Thursday, was even stronger at 4.5.

“People are absolutely feeling them,” said Scott Keim, chief of the Louisa County fire and EMS department. “Quite often they’ll wake us up.”

“I think that there’s a fair amount of anxiety in the community,” Keim said, “about when they will stop and how bad they’ll get.”

It is not necessary to live in or around Louisa County to experience the aftershocks. Most have been felt in Northern Virginia and other parts of the Washington metropolitan area.

After the earth quivered Tuesday morning, the Geological Survey received 68 reports from people in 52 Zip codes.

It is difficult to say whether any of the aftershocks have caused damage. In Louisa County, where the probability of damage would seem greatest, authorities are still compiling an initial damage assessment from the Aug. 23 quake. Building inspectors were brought in from across the state to help, Keim said. So far, he said, more than 600 reports of earthquake damage have been made to a hotline.

Keim said damage estimates have topped $17.5 million. That, he said, “is a lot for a county of 35,000 people.”

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