5.9 Earthquake Hits Virginia

Residents felt the ground shaking just before 2 p.m.

A 5.9 earthquake centered near Mineral, VA rocked the area just before 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday and was felt all along the East Coast.

The U.S. Geological Survey rated the earthquake a 5.9 and said it originated 9 miles from Mineral.

Dale City residents reported feeling the ground shaking and seeing cars and buildings move.

Brian Heffron, assistant Principal at Saunders Middle School, said he had just gotten out of the car when he felt the ground shake. "You could literally see the building moving from the outside," Heffron said.

Heffron walked around the building to check for damage or gas leaks, but said there was none apparent.

Patricia Purdy was working the polls for the Republican primary at Saunders. "The doors were shaking like something was going to come through," she said. "We were told to go under the tables, but some of us if we went under, we wouldn't be able to get out."

Eileen Kurtz, the assistant chief officer working the polls at Saunders, said she had immediately gotten under a table—with the emergency instruction manual. Poll workers initially began shutting down voting machines according to emergency protocol, but said the polls would have remained open.

Hylton High School Principal David Cassady said people in the office weren't initially sure what was going on. "It took us a second to realize it wasn't kids running upstairs," he said. Hylton dismissed children who were at the school for band camp and other activities, and ended the day's new teacher training early. The school also canceled evening activities.

Shantina James said she was at the mall outside in the parking lot and saw cars moving. "The cars were just dancing," she said.

Officer Jonathan Perok from Prince William County police said that he was not aware of any major incidents that had occurred because of the quake.

Joan Morris with Virginia Department of Transportation said in an email, "We have no reports of road or bridge damage right now but thought I’d give you a quick heads up that our bridge crews will be checking on bridges rest of today and tomorrow.  We will first check out bridges on 'rocker bearings.'  I am not sure how many of those bridges we have – I should know in an hour.  Those bridges are from the 60s, maybe early 70s and the roller bearing could tilt if damaged. Crews will check out bridges in Prince William County first as that area is closer to the epicenter."

Sentara Potomac Hospital reports that everything is operational and there is no structural damage and no injuries.

The Prince William County government said that minor structural damage, gas leaks and water leaks had been reported in some areas, but no injuries have been reported so far. Communications Director Jason Grant said residents should check their homes for damage. If there are cracks greater than 1/4 inch, excessive bowing of walls, ceilings or floorboards, or the smell of natural gas, residents should immediately evacuate the building and call 911.

Ivette August 23, 2011 at 07:57 PM
I was at Navy Federal on Dale Blvd. All the managers of all the stores were good about getting people out of the buildings. There was mostly disbelief! Lots of folks just wandering the parking lot kind of unsure of what had just happened. I thought maybe the AC unit had exploded on the roof... until my cell rang. My 12 yo son in the sweetest voice asked, "Mother, did you happen to experience and earthquake just now?" Right then I had confirmation because he was 3 miles away. Unfortunately, I was unable to get through to my husband until I got home and could use the WIRED land-line (NEVER give up the only phone that works in blackouts and when the cell circuits get overloaded) to call Olde Towne Alex. My Mom felt it in CT! I am grateful for the exciting experience without the devastation.
Paul August 23, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Being that I have lived many years in both SoCal and VA I am familiar with earthquakes and what to do. Today I came to realize how scary this was for people not familiar with earthquakes. As I herded my family out of house into the streets I saw a good amount of neighbors screaming to each other "WHAT IS THAT! WHAT IS GOING ON?" Panic was swift and powerful and some I found out believed we were under another terrorist attack. I admit I was shaken up when I notice how long the quake was lasting.
Whitney Archer August 24, 2011 at 03:37 AM
We were at home and I couldn't figure out what was happening. It wouldn't stop and I thought it was just our home because there was nobody outside. I grabbed my son and starting running down the stars - it was terrifying. I think if I had known it was an earthquake, it wouldn't have been so scary. I thought it was an explosion or attack.
Connie Moser August 24, 2011 at 11:20 AM
A friend who works as a gas contractor had some good advice: If you smell natural gas or propane, don't hesitate to call your supplier or your fire department. Don't turn on or off any lights, and place the call away from the area where you smell gas. Don't drag your feet across the carpet, the static electricity is dangerous. Thanks Doug!
Lizzie M. Johnson August 25, 2011 at 02:21 AM
I was at home and my grand children spent the night with me and they were up stairs and I was down stairs and they ran down stairs and yelled grandma the house is shaking, the house is shaking. I was in the living room and I could feel the whole house shaking especially the upstairs swaying back and forth like it was going to seperate from the down stairs and I yelled out this is an earth quake and what are we going to do. When i said I have to get my baring it stopped.I ran up stairs and got my important papers just in case iy started again. We went out side for a while. It is really something because i was doing something in the kitchen last week and a voice came to me saying you never know where death is but do good while you are still here. Lizzie johnson


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