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Did You Feel It?

Earthquake centered in Virginia and was a 5.9 on the Richter scale.

Update, 5:45p.m. Montgomery County Public Schools has also released a statement:

"Montgomery County Public Schools' buildings and offices sustained some minor damage due to Tuesday’s 5.9 magnitude earthquake that impacted the Washington, D.C. area.

Schools have provided initial damage reports and those have been prioritized. Facilities management staff members are continuing to assess the condition of schools and offices. All buildings are believed to be safe at this time.

Orientations for middle and high school students scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 25 will take place as planned, as will elementary school open houses, which are set for Friday, Aug. 26.

MCPS staff will continue preparing for the opening of school on Monday, Aug. 29."

Update, 5:30p.m.: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has released a statement on this afternoon's quake.

“The earthquake this afternoon was an extremely unusual occurrence for us here on the East Coast.  I have been briefed by members of my cabinet and public safety officials on the status of state facilities and operations. Presently, there are no reports of significant damage or incidents and we will continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly over the next 24 to 48 hours.  We will be paying close attention to our utilities for problems with water mains or gas lines that may not be present immediately following an earthquake. 

“Of course, when the earthquake first hit, our thoughts immediately turned to the safety of our loved ones.  I encourage everyone to check on their family members, friends and neighbors; particularly the elderly to make sure everyone is safe.”

Residents should be advised there may be more tremors, in addition to the 2.8 magnitude aftershock the USGS reported at 2:46 pm.
Mike Blanpied, USGS associate coordinator for the earthquake hazards program, said there could be more aftershocks and they could go up to 5 in magnitude. “Aftershocks could go on for days, weeks, or even months. They’re most likely to be felt under the next three or four days,” Blanpied said, as reported by the Washington Post.

The aftershocks are generally, but not always, of a lesser degree than the original earthquake, according to Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, as reported by sussexcountian.com

Jordan recommended removing any heavy or breakable objects that could fall and injure someone.

“A lot of people are injured by stuff falling, so make sure that big rock you picked up on vacation isn’t sitting on a shelf,” he said. “The chances of getting large shakes are small, but my advice would be to do now what you should be doing all along.”

Update, 4:30p.m.: Earthquake FAQ's are now available via Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.

This is Metropolitan Washington’s second quake in just over a year. A 3.6-magnitude tremor—less than one-tenth the strength of today’s quake—struck five kilometers beneath Gaithersburg last July.

Maryland’s earthquake history dates back to a 30-second quake reported in Annapolis in 1758.

USGS archives list no "significant"—magnitude 3.5 or greater—Maryland-based seismic events since an 1885 quake near the Frederick County-Loudoun County border. Reports over the last few decades have come from earthquakes in neighboring states, including:

  • A 4.3-magnitude earthquake near Elgood, W. Va. in 1969
  • A 1972 tremor centered in Wilmington, Del.
  • A minor earthquake near the Delaware-New Jersey-Pennsylvania border in 1973
  • A 4.5-magnitude quake west of Richmond, Va. in 2003

Update, 4:05p.m.: We're hearing reports of lots of businesses looking to make the most of the earthquake buzz. is serving "shaken not stirred" rail martinis and has concocted a drink called "The Earthquake" -- whiskey, amaretto and orange juice. Let us know what other specials you're hearing.

Also, the and the on Bethesda Lane will go on as scheduled.

Update, 3:50p.m: Pepco is reporting via its Twitter feed that no Pepco customers are affected due to the earthquake. Also via Twitter, AT&T is reporting no network damage, but heavy call volumes. WSSC also reports that its facilities are undamaged.

There were numerous reports of residents without cell phone service. Let us know your experiences in the comments section.

Metro riders were reporting packed trains and slow rides, with one rider telling us the trip between Friendship Heights and Bethesda took 15 minutes. Traffic was also heavy on Old Georgetown Road and Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Metro is reporting that riders should expect significant delays.

Update, 2:50p.m.: WMATA is reporting that trains are running at 15mph. There are no injuries and Metro workers are conducting track inspections across the system. Patient operations have not been disrupted at a spokeswoman reports.

Update, 2:30p.m.: High-rise buildings in downtown Bethesda are being evacuated following an earthquake that struck the Washington region Tuesday afternoon and appears to be widespread along the East Coast.

NewsChannel8 is reporting the quake was felt as far north as Rhode Island and Massachusetts and as far south as Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The quake struck around 1:51, according to NewsChannel 8. There are no reports of structural damage in Montgomery County, NewsChannel 8 reported.

Bethesda residents flooded social networking sites to report their experiences during the quake. Some of the tweets included:

@jedsalawyer Felt it in Bethesda. My 9th floor apt. shook a hell of a lot.

@yyousef (Felt in movie theater, thought it was 4D experience)

@yyousef Regal on Wisconsin. Evacuated, theater closed for at least an hour. BoA nearby also closed.

@RobynPorter YES! Felt it. Office evacuated.

@RobynPorter WC & AN Miller offices on Sangamore Road, Bethesda.

@sacredchao yup, thought the dryer was uneven. My puppy slept through it though.

@sacredchao over by petco/staples

@beckalim I'm on BBC live stream seems like it was 5.8 magnitude, felt across the East Coast. I'm in 20817 and mirror shattered.

@peroty Voice cell and data coverage at NIH campus is spotty at best for Verizon and AT&T.

Original Post: Alert Montgomery is reporting the county has experienced an earthquake.

The quake was centered in Mineral Virginia and estimated at 5.9 on the Richter scale, according to Alert Montgomery.

ABC7 is reporting the quake was widespread.

This story has been updated to reflect the quake is now being reported as a 5.9 on the Richter scale.

jasvisp August 23, 2011 at 07:16 PM
zip 20816 bethesda strong shaking, dishes rattled and glass things fell off mantel and smashed. I grabbed my puppy and ran TO THE BASEMENT...stupid me..as soon as we were down there I thought... this is what you do in a tornado! Luckily it wasn't worse.
Tony August 23, 2011 at 08:50 PM
BUY the limited edition commemorative Earthquake t-shirt HERE: http://www.ebay.com/itm/SURVIVED-Virginia-Earthquake-t-shirt-VA-MD-DC-PA-/120767949215?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&var=&hash=item61cc7f95e3 before they're sold out!!

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