08.23.11 7:15 PM ET
Earthquake Hits the East Coast!
Minor Damage Report in D.C.
Tuesday’s 5.9 Virginia earthquake caused some minor damage to the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and other buildings. A senior Obama administration official said the White House “shook pretty hard” and employees were evacuated onto the driveway. There were no reports of damage to the White House, and President Obama and his family were vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard. The tip of the one of the spires at the National Cathedral fell onto the steps of Pilgrim Road. The National Cathedral has been closed until further notice. Police taped off the Washington Monument Tuesday afternoon to inspect for any damage, and the building will be closed until further notice. Fox News reported the earthquake caused the Washington Monument to tilt slightly, but later reports refuted the claim.
Almost exactly a decade after 9/11, Washington's safety officials were tested with responding to the 5.8 earthquake that shook the East Coast. Daniel Stone on the impact.
Washington is accustomed to occasional rumblings from nearby planes or frequent construction projects, but the nation's capital experienced what amounted to a real-life emergency drill Tuesday afternoon, just weeks before the 10th anniversary of September 11.
An unusual East Coast earthquake struck 9 miles outside of Mineral, Virginia, about 90 miles southwest of D.C. on Tuesday afternoon, producing a tremor that was felt as far away as New York City. The Pentagon and the White House were each evacuated, and a march of suits flooded the streets. "Sir we don't know what it was, please get to the park,” one officer was overheard saying. Ambulances and fire trucks were scrambling, and reporters were checking for problems in the subways.
“It felt like a metro train was passing right below the sidewalk,” wrote The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz from the capitol. “Park benches shook; everyone stopped what they were doing. Within moments, thousands poured onto the sun-drenched streets from downtown office buildings.” At Newsweek’s D.C. office, the building shook for a five seconds, paused, and then shook again for another two seconds. The epicenter of the quake was about 90 miles southwest of Washington D.C.
Rosalyn Irving, an IT specialist in D.C., was walking into a building near the White House when she felt the ground shaking. "The whole building shook. My first thought was, 'What if a plane just us or the White House?' I was thinking 9/11. Or what if it was something to do with all these threats from the MLK monument. I'm freaking out."
Early Reports of Damage
Within a half hour, early reports of minor damage emerged in Washington. Some pinnacles reportedly fell off the National Cathedral, a popular summer tourist attraction, while a broken pipe at the Pentagon caused some flooding. Reactors at the North Anna nuclear power plant, near the epicenter of the quake in Mineral, Va., automatically shut down when the plant lost electricity, but backup generators kicked in and kept the spent fuel cool. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reported that a Capitol Hill Police officer told someone in the D.C. bureau that the Washington Monument may be tilting because of the earthquake. Cell phone service on the East Coast was disrupted for half hour after the quake.