No damage reported in wake of area earthquake

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 18, 2010

More than 20,000 reports of the earthquake that struck the Washington area Friday have been received by the U.S. Geological Survey, authorities said Saturday. But so far, there have been no indications of any substantial damage.

The USGS created a map based on 21,294 reports it received from people in 641 Zip codes, which indicated that the quake was felt almost everywhere in the Washington metropolitan area, as well as in Delaware, southeastern Pennsylvania and possibly New Jersey.

However, a scientist at the USGS's National Earthquake Information Center said that more than 36 hours after the quake, no reports of damage have been received.

"Not at this time," said geophysicist Dale Grant at the center in Golden, Colo.

"We were lucky," said assistant chief Scott Graham, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and EMS Department.

At magnitude 3.6, the quake, whose epicenter was northwest of Rockville, had the potential to cause damage, and the absence of such reports "surprises me a little bit," Grant said.

The quake was strong enough to be felt far from the metropolitan area. Four reports came from Newark, Del., and four from the Ruckersville, Va., area, Grant said. Ruckersville is about 80 miles southwest of the District.

Unusual as it was, the quake, and a smaller aftershock, did not surprise scientists versed in the region's geological history.

But it puzzled many area residents who were shaken awake, and Saturday evening brought another indication, on a far smaller scale, that the unexpected may lurk beneath Washington's feet.

What officials called a sinkhole opened in the Dupont Circle area causing a temporary street closure about 7 p.m. A car that apparently had been parked near the hole was reportedly trapped in it.

The vehicle was removed from the hole, at a curb in the 1500 block of 18th Street NW, said spokesmen for the District's fire and transportation departments. What caused the hole had not yet been determined.

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