Small earthquake rattles near Richmond in central Virginia

A magnitude 3.2 earthquake that was centered west of Richmond shook the ground Wednesday night as far north and east as the Washington metropolitan area.

The quake, which was centered in the area of Powhatan and Amelia counties, was far smaller than the one that caused damage to buildings in the Washington area about 21 / 2 years ago. Officials had received no reports of significant damage or injury.

But more than 1,300 people in a broad swath of Virginia, as well as in parts of Maryland, reported feeling some of the effects of the quake. It shook a basement in Spotsylvania County and reminded people of a big truck driving past or of a powerful thunderstorm.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake occurred at 9:47 p.m. and was centered about 30 miles west of Richmond. It was not far from where the 2011 earthquake was centered in Louisa County.

Reports of the quake came into the USGS from as far west as Lynchburg and as far north and east as Edgewater, Md., in Anne Arundel County.


Edgewater resident Donna Cole said that when she walked back to her house from her car, she leaned down to pick up a pair of reading glasses from a step. “I felt like the steps moved or I had lost my balance somehow,” she said. Then she realized, she said, that it was something else and considered asking via social media: “Was that an earthquake?”

It was indeed a quake, centered about 0.7 miles below ground, according to the USGS, and eight miles southwest of Powhatan. The magnitude of 3.2 meant that it had thousands of times less energy than the recent historic quake centered in Mineral, Va., which damaged major structures in the Washington area, including the Washington Monument and Washington National Cathedral.

In Spotsylvania County, the Wednesday night quake shook Brent Gibbons’s basement apartment. He said he was on his couch watching the NBA playoff game when he felt a little trembling. “Two baseballs fell off a shelf and the lamp was rattling,” he said.

In Amelia County, the sheriff’s office said that “there were four to five seconds of a deep rumble.”

However, no strong quake was felt there.

At the earthquake information center maintained by the USGS, Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist, said the quake was of the kind that could knock things off shelves but not cause any greater effect.

Victoria St. Martin contributed to this report.

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local