BREAKING NEWS — Earthquake Hits D.C. Area

by ARLnow.com August 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm 19,306 133 Comments

(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) A 5.8 magnitude earthquake has hit the D.C. area.

Reports of the ground shaking came in from throughout the county, the region and the eastern seaboard. The epicenter of the quake was located between Charlottesville and Richmond, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Be advised, we just suffered an earthquake,” Arlington County 911 dispatch said over police and fire radio channels, just after the quake hit at 1:51 p.m. So far, no major damage or significant injuries have been reported in Arlington.

Multiple reports of building evacuations throughout the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor led police to caution about pedestrians in the roadway. Vornado has made the decision to close all its building in Arlington, including the county’s office building at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius. The building is staying open for election workers.

Numerous gas leaks are being reported. More than 250 Dominion customers in Arlington are without power as of 5:00 p.m.

The Arlington Emergency Operations Center has been activated, Curtius said. Traffic is heavy on I-66 and I-395 in Arlington as workers head home for the day.

The county’s 911 center was “flooded with calls” after the earthquake, Curtius said. Most of the calls were anxiety related, and no injuries directly related to the earthquake have been reported. Additional emergency personnel were called in and 911 calls are dying down now, Curtius added.

There are reports of minor damage to parts of old buildings, like brick chimneys, according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal. She said the Arlington County courthouse and police department were evacuated while the Fire Marshal checked out gas lines to the building. During the evacuation, many emergency personnel were standing outside the police station on 14th Street with radios in hand.

Firefighters are checking for damage to overpasses. All flights out of Reagan National Airport were suspended while runways are checked for damage, officials said. Flights are now operating, but with delays. As of 2:45 p.m., Terminal A of Reagan National was being evacuated due to an odor of gas. Terminal B and C are still open.

The Pentagon was also evacuated after the quake, according to news reports. NBC News is reporting that several water pipes burst in the building, flooding the floor below.

Arlington Public Library says that books fell off shelves, and multiple residents have told us about small items falling on the ground during the temblor.

According to county election officials, today’s voting will continue as normal, with polls closing at 7:00 p.m. All voting centers are open, but voting has been moved outside at the George Mason University center.

Cell phone service was jammed shortly after the quake as residents called loved ones. Service is back up but spotty, according to various accounts on Twitter.


    you guys are fast! thoght the building was coming down here at foggy bottom!

    • Kathy

      Felt the earthquake in Clarksburg, MD

    • NPGMBR

      Same here, also in Foggy Bottom. Thought it was a result of construction next door but then noticed the lights were swinging and then some people started running for doorways and others got under desks. No doubt it felt like the building would come down if it went on for much longer. Very unnerving to say the least!

  • Sara

    I live in Ballston Washington Blvd near Wash/Lee HS and felt the earthquake. A photo fell off the wall and broke. Several of my neighbors also working from home came out of their houses and said they felt it too! You could see the windows rattling.

  • Ginger Harden

    I live in Shirlington Village my wals just shook once then more the second time.

  • Relax Preppy

    At first I thought it was some low flying helos because it was really weak, but then my building started swaying side to side

    • TGEoA

      Exactly what I thought & felt.

  • A 5.8 quake that originated between Charlottesville and Richmond extended shockwaves to the DC metro area, hitting at about 1:50 PM EST.


  • Westover

    Wow – we just felt the earthquake in Westover/Arlington – house shook and made noise – everything rattling – for a good 15 seconds. I can imagine how terrifying a real strong earthquake in a big building must be like.

  • ClizzleDizzle

    It was pretty bad in Reston town center, for a moment I thought the floor and ceiling of my office building (1 fountain square) were going to give way.

    • Sean

      That is exactly what I experienced in my office in Vienna. When the second wave hit, I was really concerned the floor above me was going to collapse. The shaking was that powerful.

      My desk is very close to the exit door so I was the second person to the door. The woman in front of me apparently forgot how to open the door. She just kept pushing without turning the handle. I think she was just under a lot of stress. I helped her out and we all ran out the door.

  • tony

    i felt it here in toronto too

  • shauntae

    We felt the tremor here all the way in Charlotte NC!!!!

  • Outside, reading on what seemed to be a beautiful day – the whole house started skaking. Scared the living daylights out of me.

  • Wes

    Felt it on 21st floor of my Toronto office building

  • Superstar

    Is anyone else’s phone not working? No one in my building seems to be able to get their phone to work.

  • Louann

    Thank you for posting this so quickly. I was starting to think either I was insane or my building was falling down. My bookshelves were moving back and forther.A couple of small items were knocked off shelves here and hanging cups were shaking for several minutes.

  • So I’m wondering, the epicenter appears to be Mineral, VA, which is right where the Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant is. Anyone hear any reports from there?

    • blahnikgal

      TV reporting that it went offline immediately (so the safety mechanisms worked) and inspectors are on their way to check.

  • mm

    felt the ground shake a bit twice in avalon NJ, i go on facebook to post it but i see everyone else in DC already has 😉

    • Maria

      I think everyone on the entire east coast has!

  • It shook stuff off of my shelves here in Greenbelt, MD, and now my cellphone doesn’t work (not even for 911…nice one Virgin Mobile! :/ )

    • Swag

      You really tried to call 911 for an earthquake?

      “911, what’s your emergency?”


      • KalashniKEV


        “I need a cruiser to 555 Wilson Blvd, NOW! We’ve got an earthquake!”

        Dispatcher: “I’m sorry, ACPD only responds to taxable offenses. Does the earthquake have all it’s stickers up to date, or is it parked illegally?”

        • Not Steve85

          Shake-ist comment

  • Rosslynite

    I am pleased to report that Donaldson Run was as solid as a rock throughout this whole episode.

    • Richard Cranium

      The tsunami emanating from there later will cause more damage than the quake itself.

  • Clarendon Cruiser

    “Shaken, not Stirred”

  • Freaked me out, big time! Hope the house/dog are ok….. Nobody home to check it out.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      OB, I hope your house and dog are OK!

      • Thanks! Neighbor says it looks fine. Hopefully no glass came crashing down inside and had fido walk through it.

  • Felt at Ft Belvoir Too

    Huge brick building shook but no damage. ATT cell network seem to be down

    • alen ope

      Early news said that a building split in two at Fort Belvoir.

  • Anastasia Bennefield

    Felt the earthquake Salisbury, Maryland

    • You can call it

      Salisbury Shake!

  • KalashniKEV

    We felt it big out near Dulles… one of the fluorescent light covers fell off.

  • Ryan

    We felt the earthquake all the over here in Cincinnati, OH!

  • Janet Harding

    Felt a tremor here in Matthews, NC, just outside Charlotte.
    Lasted just a few seconds. Spooky feeling.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Whoo! Felt it over here at Tyson’s. All the buildings on my block on Greensboro Dr. evacuated and everyone was OK. The fire marshals let everyone back in. When it hit I thought “what the heck is some big truck doing”, the realized on the 5th floor it wouldn’t be a truck. Got the hell out fast.

  • Whoa!
  • Tre

    Still not as exciting as the ol’ serial bank robbery new stories.. but it’ll have to do.

    p.s. Thought my floor was going to collapse out in Tysons

  • Polarissno

    Felt it here in Farmington Hills, MI

  • Rosslynite

    Why are people in Toronto, Matthews, Charlotte, and Avalon reading this blog? I think it is a nice blog. Informative. Top quality pictures. Still, it is curious.

    • Lou

      Arlington is a world class community.

      • toronto arlingtonian

        As a former Arlingtonian now living in Toronto (who also felt the earthquake by the way) I regularly read arlnow.com to keep touch with all things Arlington. Its a great local news source.

        • Here Too

          We felt it out here in New Zealand. The sheeps’ wool was vibrating quite fiercely.

          • Wockney Canker

            Felt it here in the UK too. Rattled the apples and pears something shocking.

          • Apu

            I am please to be feeling it in India.

          • Boris

            Here in former Soviet Union, earthquake feel you!

          • Josh S

            Bravo! *whistles* *claps*

          • Shirley


    • Westover

      maybe they’re arlingtonians who are travelling or recently relocated?

      • Rosslynite

        Once I tried to follow a blog about the twon in which I grew up and my parents still live. It was just too boring without living there.

      • Nicole

        Im a Torontonian and found this site while looking for info on the earthquake- which I did not feel- but my daughter who works downtown Toronto did.
        But for the record- I love Arlington.
        Been there a few times.

        • Aw thanks

          Buffalo has good chicken wings.

          I like your flag.

          Also, Barenaked Ladies.

        • General Zod

          Canada – America’s Hat!

    • Swag

      Avalon is what rich, smug people consider a Jersey Shore experience. Not surprising that people from Arlington would go there

    • surfsidecp


    • Richard Cranium

      Because avalonnow.com sucks?

  • BerryBerryCold

    Felt it.

  • Here’s the USGS site–there’s a map showing how much intensity people felt up and down the east coast! Sounds like everyone felt it…our building shook like crazy and then we all got evacuated, they told us to stay away from tall structures…crazy…

  • JamesE

    Knocked my flip-flops off

  • North Highlands Momma

    I was on the ninth floor of a building in Fairfax and it was crazy scary. Building shook quite a bit.

    • JL

      To be fair, thats what big buildings are supposed to do…too rigid and you get damage. Of course, I have no clue if the building codes plan for earthquakes in this area 🙂

      • Too Rigid and You Get Damage

        That’s what she said.

        • nice


  • Teresa

    We felt a slight trimmer here in Erwin, TN.
    Where exactly is the epicenter? We own a home in Mineral VA and of course cannot reach ANYONE !

    And the Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant – is it secure and safe?

  • billj

    WTOP is reporting that Dominion is checking into the North Anna Power Plant…

    • Mike O

      From a Weather Channel news article:

      Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in the same county as the epicenter were automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

      The Dominion-operated power plant is being run off of four emergency diesel generators, which are supplying power for critical safety equipment. Hannah said the agency was not immediately aware of any damage at nuclear power plants in the Southeast.

  • EyeOOOOta

    Justin Trawaick just jumped.

  • Nunya

    planes are taking off from dca

  • Rick

    “GLOBAL WARMING” for all you believers!

    • Swag

      Pfft… global warming doesn’t cause earthquakes. HAARP does.

      • Richard Cranium

        It was definitely caused by the “Wall Street Fat Cats.”

        • Tea is my favorite drink

          It was Obama’s fault.

          • Kool Aid is my Favorite Drink

            It was Bush & Cheney’s fault

  • Brian

    Photo from Ballston earlier

    • NomNom

      Good day to be a food truck operator.

      • david

        Except that most of them were closed up and a few of them tried to drive off through that mess.

  • Brian

    More from Ballston.

    • KalashniKEV


      More earthquake protection than a PT belt!

  • Peter

    I was was walking back from lunch at Pupatella and didn’t feel a thing. I feel cheated!

    • Ed

      That’s encouraging, actually, because my house is right by Pupatella and I’m out of town. If some things fell down, fine, but I’m hoping no gas or water leaks in the house.

  • Lou

    I expect the loser of the primary to file a protest.

    • Rick

      I’m sure they will extend the hours for more to vote!

    • blahnikgal

      I just returned from voting outdoors!! My polling station is GMU and the savvy poll minders had e-voting capability outside, both check-in and e-ballot. Fairfax Drive may be jammed, but Democracy is still thriving.

  • chipotle_addict

    Evacuated buildings in Rosslyn 20 minutes after the earthquake. The crowds are gone now though, everyone back to work.

    • Bob

      Back to work, my ass…. Our loser government and contractor employees largely went home! And we wonder why the rest of America bad mouths the DC area….

      • RK

        Yeah jeez, how dare they go home while their buildings are inspected for gas leaks and electrical failures!

        • Josh S

          Bob may be from California or someplace that deals with earthquakes on a regular basis. It’s sort of like being from Buffalo or Chicago and coming here to witness how we deal with snow.

          As someone who grew up in the Bay Area myself, I know that a 5.8 there would not have resulted in everyone going home…..

          On the other hand, it was scary and as the Post reported this morning, you can’t live here post 9/11 and not immediately think terrorism when faced with unexpected rumblings and shaking like that – especially if you’re in a tall building. I don’t fault people for going home at all.

  • KA

    First pictures of local devastation are now coming in:

    • Chris Slatt

      That made my day

    • Josh S

      Yes that was hilarious.

  • CW

    Terrible, terrible reports coming out of Donaldson run.

    But seriously…for one, has anyone heard anything out of metro? It says now they’re operating all trains at 15 mph until further notice. Knowing metro, I’d not be surprised if this triggered them to dust off some ancient protocol saying they can’t do anything until they inspect every inch of rail and tunnel.

    • othersideoftheriver

      Would somebody think of the trees?

  • Maryanne

    Are the polls open?

    • Chris Slatt

      Yep – I voted half an hour ago @ Patrick Henry. No worries.

  • Jack

    BTW, isn’t there a Hurricane coming too?

  • Pingback: Earthquake in DC, felt across east coast « Three Brother's Commentary()

  • RJ

    From this native Californian, turned Arlingtonian, let’s keep things in perspective:

    • doug

      Wow! I never thought about how earthquakes (or snowstorms….or hurricanes….or anythings) are worse in other places!

      Just plain crazy!

  • BerryBerryCold

    Traffic looks bad going through Arlington.

  • Paco

    I’d like to think that those haircare bottles on the floor in CVS were dropped by employees who figured it was better to get the hell out of the store rather than possibly risk their lives for minimum wage from a soul-sucking corporation like CVS.

  • MyHood

    Thanks for reminding me to vote. I was in Rosslyn on the 10th floor of my office. Crazy shaking. Made it home to South Arlington in the usual amount of time. Checked the house and there appears to be minimal damage (woe to the antique tea set). My 100 pound dog was holed up in his crate clutching his blankey. It was totally adorable and a little sad. I finally convinced him to come out.

  • Swag

    Reports now that the Washington Monument may be leaning (I assume to the left).

  • Not Steve85

    ridiculous comment of course that would depend what way u were looking at it from

    • Swag

      Really? Political humor not working in Arlington? That’s a first.

      • Captain Obvious

        Pretty sure that was a friendly poke at frequent poster Steve85 and his incomparable ability to determine a humorous post from a serious one.

        • Captain Obvious

          “Distinguish” not “Determine.”

  • Devistating
  • Joe Hoya

    Is that a before or after photo of the aisle at the CVS on Glebe and Pershing? I can’t tell the difference.

    • Tabby


  • steve

    Went to the ABC store by Ray’s Hell Burger and they told me that at another store they had some product damaged, but nothing at their store.

    • Bob

      perhaps because most of their stock is aluminum can 40’s and plastic bottom shelf crap…

      • Tabby

        Yeah. I saw CCTV video of a wine store in NW and there were wine bottles crashing all over.

  • SaveDaveMckenna

    I visited the Fairfax (Falls Church?) Home Depot after the shaking had stopped. The aisles were surprisingly uncluttered.

  • alenope

    I was listening to the radio news in my car and heard some guy call in to report damage at Reagan Airport. He said it was not the earthquake that caused all the disturbance but one of Howard Stern’s farts.

  • Michael H.

    There is some damage at National Cathedral and in some of the Smithsonian buildings. Three pinnacles fell of of the main tower at the Cathedral and a fourth is leaning. Some of the flying buttresses are cracked. Some beams inside some of the Smithsonian buildings also cracked. Possibly the older Castle.

  • Ok so…

    I may be misinformed before anyone jumps up to yell that I’m wrong, but especially where there are close together higher buildings, isn’t it less safe to leave the building and stand outside under the towering buildings (often largely made of glass windows) where items could fall on you? If you have a larger open space where you can’t have things falling to get to, that’s one thing, but right in ballston-rosslyn and even crystal city… it seems pretty illogical to immediately run outside where the potential for falling items is greater.

    Don’t get me wrong, the first instinct I had was “get out”, but in all reality, I’m pretty sure that’s not what anyone who’s been trained in dealing with earthquakes is taught or would teach.


    • Skyliner

      Here at Skyline, our 60’s era, 9 story building was creaking, and groaning and it definately made you want to get out. Which we did – but only after the shaking was over (didn’t last that long). If the shaking kept happening, I think I would have got out anyway, but in a dense canyon of tall buildings you are probably right – don’t want to be outside.

      • You should be worried. During construction in 1973, the building closest to King Street by George Mason/Seminary collaped.

        • Skyliner

          Everyone is quite aware of that incident in this building. Plus, the condition of all the mechanical systems don’t give one a great level of comfort with the building as a whole (even though these are apart from any potential structural problems).

    • CW2

      Well, you’re right to an extent. You definitely don’t want to stand right next to a tall building (or any building really) where bricks and glass could fall on you. But if you could get outside and at least a couple hundred feet away from the nearest structure, I’d take that route 100 out of 100 times.

      • Josh S

        Indeed. But 200 feet away from a tall building is not possible in most of downtown DC, Rosslyn or Crystal City.

        • Ok so…

          Thanks, Josh. Yea, I’m no expert (though I did look at a few websites… though one was FEMA and we know how well they do with disasters haha)…but it seems logical that buildings to code SHOULD have some form of a safe indoor place (i.e. the old school drills to go in the wall where there are no windows, or under a desk or doorway) because going outside if you can’t get far enough away seems crazy dangerous as far as potential for falling objects. There is definitely a different “drill” for city vs suburb… but Arlington whether by technical definition or not, is very much in the “city” catagory. (Tall buildings, close together.)

          • Josh S

            Well, careful when you rely on code. Code around here would be different than code in, say, California. Vis a vis earthquake resistance.

            That said, I still would go with getting under a desk. It’s sort of like bracing for impact in an airplane crash – the odds that you are going to survive should the building actually crumble are fairly slim. But since the odds are slim that the building will actually crumble in the first place are also slim, it’s still probably safer than outside where the glass, etc can get you. (Not to mention cars not paying attention or out of control, etc.)

  • Kace

    Was less than 4 miles from epicenter, never been so scared.
    Power outage on Sunday. Earthquake on Tuesday..really want to finish this job & come home to Arl.

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