5.9 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles East Coast

Aug 23, 2011

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rattled the east coast of the United States, today. The tremor was felt at least as far north as New York and at least as far south as Virginia.

The United States Geological Survey says the earthquake happened at 1:51 p.m. ET with an epicenter nine miles south of Mineral, Virginia and had a depth of 1 km.

At NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., about 83 miles northwest of the epicenter, the building swayed for a few seconds. Many of buildings in the downtown area were evacuated. There were no immediate reports of damage, but in an area unaccustomed to earthquakes, people were surprised and shaken.

The quake was much closer to Richmond, Va., which was only about 40 miles from the epicenter, but according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch so far there have been no reports of damage.

The Times-Dispatch reports:

There were no immediate reports of damage as buildings were cleared throughout Richmond and other cities in Virginia, but within minutes, Richmond police began receiving calls about possible property damage. Those calls included a possible collapsed wall at a house along East Broad Street in the city's East End and a possible wall collapse at a structure along Hioaks Road in South Richmond.

Update at 2:33 p.m. ET. Historical Perspective:

As we said earlier, earthquakes, especially this strong, are rare in the area. According to the USGS, "the largest damaging earthquake (magnitude 4.8) in the seismic zone occurred in 1875. Smaller earthquakes that cause little or no damage are felt each year or two.

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