5.8 earthquake hits Central Virginia around Mineral

Published: Aug. 23, 2011 at 6:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2011 at 12:31 AM EDT
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Building damage in Mineral - Andy Jenks
Building damage in Mineral - Andy Jenks
Building damage in Mineral - Andy Jenks
Building damage in Mineral - Andy Jenks

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There was an earthquake in Central Virginia that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale centered about 5 miles south of Mineral in Louisa, depth 3.7 miles at about 1:51 p.m. The quake was centered at 38°N, 78°W.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about 38 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., about 84 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City. See a map of the quake from Chuck Bailey, professor of geology at the College of William and Mary.

Governor Bob McDonnell said during an afternoon news briefing that there are no reports of deaths, major injuries or major structural problems in Virginia.

We've had hundreds of calls and emails with people all over the East Coast reporting that they felt the earthquake. Thank you for calling in.  If you have experienced damage or have video to share, please share them with us on Send it to 12 with senditto12@nbc12.com.

About 15 residents suffered injuries during the evacuation of the Fay Towers nursing home in Richmond. Three were sent to a hospital. The building is being inspected and checked for structural integrity.

According to NBC12's Curt Autry, the structural damage seems to be the worst in Mineral, where in the downtown district, some roads have been closed because bricks have fallen off buildings. The DMV there has damage. Parents told him Thomas Jefferson Elementary also sustained minor damage - big screen TV's falling from the wall, computers falling off desks, etc. School is canceled in the county Wednesday while the buildings are inspected.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the largest recorded earthquake in Virginia history was a 5.9 on the scale, centered around Giles County in 1897.

The earthquake also caused connection problems for cell phone customers. Verizon Wireless and AT&T say their networks were congested as the quake sent people scrambling for the phones. A Verizon spokesman said there was no damage to the company's equipment. He said the crush of phone calls made it hard for some customers to get through for about 20 minutes after the quake.

Parts of the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol and federal agencies were evacuated.The National Park Service says all memorials and monuments on the National Mall have been evacuated and closed in Washington, D.C., after the earthquake. No damage was reported.

The earthquake that struck Virginia hit an area that historically is not seismically active - and there's no connection with another rare quake that struck Colorado, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist said.

USGS geophysicist Daniel McNamara said Tuesday's magnitude-5.9 quake cannot be traced to a specific fault. The same applies to a magnitude-5.3 quake that struck southern Colorado late Monday, McNamara said. That area, too, has seen little seismic activity on such a large scale. McNamara stressed there was no connection between the two quakes. Neither was the direct product of tectonic plate movement, he said.

The air control tower at Richmond International Airport was briefly evacuated and many downtown Richmond buildings were evacuated following the quake.

"All indications are that emergency response plans and orderly evacuations have gone well today, and I thank all involved. In the wake of the earthquake, I would like to encourage all Virginians to check on neighbors and loved ones to ensure that everyone is safe and to continue cooperating with law enforcement and emergency responders working in your neighborhood. All resources of the Commonwealth have been put on alert to assist in any way necessary as we move forward."

U.S. officials say there is no threat of a tsunami along the East Coast after an earthquake centered in Virginia rocked the region.  The National Weather Service's West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the location of the quake was far enough inland that it didn't threaten to trigger a tsunami on the coast.

Federal officials say two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County were automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake.  The Dominion-operated power plant is being run off of four emergency diesel generators, which are supplying power for critical safety equipment.

Both Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens reportedly shut down all rides while inspections are being conducted.

A 4.2 magnitude aftershock was felt in Louisa at 8:05 pm.

If there are more aftershocks, please check this advice from FEMA.

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