Editor’s note: This post has been updated from its original version to reflect new information.
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the East Coast on Tuesday afternoon. The epicenter was in Virginia but shaking was felt as far away as New York, Ohio and the Carolinas.
In the first hours after the quake there were no reports of deaths or major destruction. The Washington National Cathedral in the District of Columbia lost at least three of the four pinnacles on the central tower, a cathedral spokesman said, referring to the tips of the spires. The central tower appeared to be leaning, the spokesman said.
A nuclear power plant near Washington, D.C., shut down, and plants as far away as Michigan reported “unusual events,” the lowest of four emergency situations, federal authorities said.
The Washington Post said, “It would appear today’s quake is the largest on record in that region [central Virginia]. USGS [the U.S. Geological Survey] said it was the strongest quake to hit the entire state since 1897.”
Cosmic Log, an MSNBC website, reported that Tuesday’s event had a long reach for a medium-size quake because of the geology of the East Coast. “ ‘The reason an earthquake in the high 5s is felt so far away is that it occurred in an area … where the bedrock is solid, it’s not really fractured or broken up by faults the way it would be, say, in California,” Cosmic Log said in quoting Peter Powers, a USGS geophysicist. The Geological Survey said that when the East has an earthquake, the area affected could be up to 10 times larger than the area shaken by a West Coast temblor of equal magnitude. —BF
Los Angeles Times:
The Associated Press said the Pentagon was being evacuated. The quake also interrupted a news conference that was about to be held by the New York district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., about the dropping of charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Vance was about to begin speaking to a room full of reporters, on the eighth floor of a building, when the shaking began.
AP / Steve Helber