5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits D.C. Region | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits D.C. Region

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People evacuated buildings at 17th and DeSales streets NW  after the 5.8 temblor shook the region.
Elliot Francis
People evacuated buildings at 17th and DeSales streets NW after the 5.8 temblor shook the region.

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that hit about 100 miles south of Washington D.C. at 1:51 p.m. and was felt as far north as Boston, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported an aftershock at 2:43 p.m., a magnitude 2.8 event roughly five miles from Mineral, Va., which was the center of the first earthquake.

Buildings throughout D.C. were evacuated on an ad hoc basis, including the Pentagon, the Capitol building and the State Department.

The quake lasted about 30 to 40 seconds, according to a report from NBC4. It's one of the largest to ever hit the region; the USGS has an earthquake on record in Virginia from 1897 that registered 5.9 on the Richter scale.

Transportation Impacts

Operations at area airports were briefly affected: 34 flights were delayed at Ronald Reagan National Airport for nearly an hour, but operations had resumed to normal by 3 p.m.

Authorities were scrambling to ensure that nothing had happened to any of the aircraft when the quake hit, according to WAMU's Armando Trull.

Metro trains were running at 15 mph after the quake, but Metro officials told WAMU transportation reporter Jim Hilgen that there was no damage to any of the Metro lines.

The Maryland Transportation Authority suspended MARC commuter train service at about 3:30 p.m., but reinstated service a short while later. Union Station in downtown D.C. closed briefly after the earthquake, but reopened just before 3:30 p.m. Virginia commuter trains were also suspended but reinstated a short time later.

Amtrak trains are still delayed up and down the East Coast as officials continue checking trains and tracks between Washington and Baltimore.

Effects on Virginia nuclear facility, buildings

There are various reports of building damage throughout the area, including at the National Cathedral. A cathedral spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Business Journal that three pinnacles on the central tower have broken off.

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer told the Associated Press that numerous other buildings have been damaged, including the Ecuadorian embassy and a handful of schools. Piringer says all city fire trucks and ambulances have been deployed. Those that aren't responding to calls are driving around and looking for structural damage, injured people and other emergencies, he tells AP.

In Virginia, two reactors at the North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa County, Va. shut off automatically after the earthquake. The plant is located less than 10 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake.

The plant, owned by Dominion Virginia Power, is being run off four emergency diesel generators supplying power for critical safety equipment.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah tells the Associated Press the agency was not immediately aware of any damage at nuclear power plants in the southeast. The NRC and Dominion are sending people to inspect the site.

Smithsonian closes buildings as gridlock backs up

The Smithsonian closed all its buildings after the earthquake, noting that the main concern among its facilities is the Smithsonian Castle, according to the Associated Press.

There are some minor cracks and broken glass in the castle, Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough tells the AP. The gothic, red-brick castle was built in 1857.

The Smithsonian closures include the National Zoo.


During and after the earthquake, people used social media to post news updates. Here is a sampling of social media updates.

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