“Why I remember back in the Great Annandale Quake of ‘08,” the old-timer reminisced, “there was even a loud noise. Think we hit 1.8 on that one.”
Virginia does have the occasional earthquake, I learned when covering the “microquake” that hit Annandale three years ago, and Northern Virginia is the epicenter of earthquake knowledge because the U.S. Geological Survey is based in Reston. They’re a little busy right now, after the 5.9 ground boomer that erupted near Mineral, Va., about halfway between Charlottesville and Richmond.
Before the Annandale microquake, the last shakes we had around these here parts was a 2.5 Richter scale event near Manassas in 2007. Tuesday’s quake apparently ties the record for strongest earthquake in Virginia history, which was a 5.9 job on May 31, 1897, near Giles County, in the southwestern part of the state.
Experts say there are two active earthquake areas in Virginia: The one apparently responsible for Tuesday’s quake runs along the James River between Charlottesville and Richmond and is known as the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. The other is an area centered in Giles County in southwest Virginia, which had the record 1897 quake.
If you want to keep up with all the latest earthquakes in real time, Reston’s USGS has a web page for you right here.
The Washington Post has reporters spread throughout the area, and here are some of their dispatches from Northern Virginia and the epicenter in Mineral:
A writer for the Capital Weather Gang , Steve Tracton, filed this: “Purely coincidentally myself, wife, and granddaughter were in a Food Lion within a mile of the center of the quake, Mineral, Va. The first indication of something unusual was the sound, louder than the loudest thunderclap I’ve ever heard, but not thunder like -- more like an explosion.
“I knew of course from weather conditions it could not have been thunder and concluded immediately it had to be an earthquake (I’ve only felt one relatively minor earthquake before in when in Israel.) Immediately after, the store floor shook violently, lights went out and everything -- and I mean everything -- came crashing down from shelves. Luckily we were not in an aisle so were not hit by falling cans and glass, although, of course, quite scared at first.. Everyone in the store was ordered out right after the building stopped shaking. I attempted to take some pix with phone camera but was blocked from doing so. I did hear that there was some structural damage to the store - cracks in the floor and possibly foundation. Fortunately, it appeared no one was seriously injured, except possibly one woman who appeared to have been hit on the head by something.”
In Alexandria, former Post editor and reporter Alice Reid reports that “a chunk of masonry fell off the east wall of the central, three story section of City Hall, right above the polling place. Bricks fell onto an adjoining roof. City Hall has been evacuated. Voting suspended for the rest of the day. Poll worker Trudi Pearson said that after the initial shaking, “we heard rumbling as the bricks were falling on the roof. I was afraid it was the steeple.”
Here’s some video of some crushed cars near Tysons Corner:
In Prince William County, Jennifer Buske reports that four polling places have moved their voting booths outside. “The voting equipment at Stonewall Jackson High School, Ellis Elementary School and Woodbridge and Lynn middle schools has been moved outside as officials assess minor reports of damage at the facilities. All polls remain open until 7 p.m.”