Quake epicenter on Google map

An earthquake estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey at 5.9 struck today in Virginia, breaking windows in New York City and cutting off telephone service for large swaths of the densely populated region of the United States between there and Washington, D.C.

Authorities expressed concern about the Washington Monument, two nuclear power reactors were shut down and thousands of people were evacuated from buildings by authorities worried that more tremors could be coming.

The USGS reported the epicenter was near Mineral, Va.,  near the capital, Richmond, but it was very shallow, some 3.7 miles deep, which contributed to its widespread impact.

There were reports the quake was felt in Virginia, Tennessee,
Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New York, Ohio and Toronto.

Witnesses reported their houses shook, and both land lines and cell telephone connections were interrupted.

There were reports JFK Airport in New York City was closed and numerous government buildings were evacuated, including the White House, U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, according to Fox News.

Pictures reportedly fell from walls in the Capitol building.

According to CNN, a “considerable amount” of water from a water pipe reportedly flooded two corridors of the Pentagon. Also, the central tower of the National Cathedral, the highest point in Washington, D.C., has sustained some structural damage as three of its pinnacles have broken off.

Some Virginia damage was documented on video:

According to the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory, the Virginia quake is the largest on record in that region. The second largest destructive earthquake (magnitude 4.8) in the seismic zone occurred in 1875.

The new tremor was centered only 87 miles from Washington.

NBC reported that at the U.S. Capitol, light fixtures swung and the building shook for about 15 seconds.

In New York, NBC reported debris fell from office ceilings.

The report said the tremor was even felt by NBC reporters with President Obama during his vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.

National Review contributor Mark Krikorian delivered a one-liner on the magazine’s The Corner blog: “The End Times really are upon us when an earthquake hits D.C.”

Fox News also reports that one official reported being “concerned that the Washington Monument may be tilting.”

FEMA chief Craig Fugate tweeted, “FEMA is monitoring reports from the #earthquake, cell service is busy in DC, try to stay off your cell phone if it is not an emergency.”

NBC also said the North Anna nuclear power plant in Lake Anna, Va., automatically shut down both of its reactors.

The director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Marcia McNutt, warned of further, even stronger tremors.

“What the concern is, of course, is that this is a foreshock. If it’s a foreshock, then the worst is yet to come, McNutt told the Washington Post.

She explained that energy from earthquakes on the East Coast does not subside as quickly as tremors on the West Coast.

The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Mass., said items spilled from supermarket shelves.

The paper said a woman who didn’t want to give her name said, “I was sitting here in my chair and it started rocking … and I don’t have a rocker.”

USA Today reported its headquarters building in McLean, Va., swayed, and items could be heard falling from shelves.

John Rundle, a seismologist, told Fox News that a quake of that magnitude could cause significant cracks in buildings, such as the Washington Monument.

“All these things were built long before people worried about earthquakes,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things you want to look at. It’s going to be several days, weeks before the engineers will give a … thumbs up on the lack of damage.”

The quake struck around 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time and lasted for about 30 to 45 seconds.

However, there were no immediate reports of injuries.

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