The East Coast experienced a rare earthquake Tuesday afternoon, as a 5.8 temblor rattled buildings and structures across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and was felt as far west as Cleveland and Detroit.
According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, the quake was located 3.7 miles underground and centered in Mineral, Va., part of the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. A nearby nuclear power plant lost power, but its two units were shut down manually, and without incident. So far, officials have found no major damage. Four emergency deisel generators are currently powering critical safety systems.
Aside from isolated wall collapses, there have been no reports of widespread damage to the region's large buildings or major infrastructure systems.
The earthquake is the largest to occur in Virginia since 1897. It was followed by two minor aftershocks.
UPDATE 3:26 pm ET
Per Reuters, the 300-ft Central Tower of the hilltop National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., lost three of its four pinnacles and sustained minor structural damage. Stone masons are on the scene. Damage also reported at Ecuador's Embassy nearby.
UPDATE 3:38 pm ET
National Park Service using helicopters to inspect Washington Monument for structural damage.
UPDATE 4:00 pm ET
NPS spokesman asserts “absolutely no damage” to Washington Monument.
UPDATE 4:55 pm ET
Nuclear Regulatory Commission is monitoring situation at Va., and other nuke plants that experienced “unusual events.” Officials at facilities such as PPL Corporation's Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick, Pa., are conducting routine inspections of their facilities. But so far, all’s well.
UPDATE 6:45 pm ET
The National Cathedral’s update on earthquake damage to Center Tower.
UPDATE 7:07 pm ET
Video of some unlucky cars at a Tysons Corner, Va., low-rise.
UPDATE 7:30 pm ET
From Twitter, a bit of perspective from Washington Post East Asia Correspondent Chico Harlan: Since 3/11, 71 quakes in Japan of M6.0 or higher. (via the VOA’s Steve Herman)
UPDATE 8:10 pm ET
4.2 aftershock reportedly felt in central and northern Va. (Nothing at Rebar Madness HQ near Manassas.)
UPDATE Wednesday 6:20 am ET
Photos of earthquake damage at the National Cathedral.
UPDATE Wed 9:30 am
Several DC-area federal buildings closed Wednesday Aug. 24, "pending further inspections." according to Office of Personnel Management.
Facilities closed include Agriculture Dept. 's Whitten bldg, South bldg, and Yates bldg (houses U.S. Forest Service)--all three are on or near the National Mall.
Also main Interior Dept bldg and Interior's South bldg (around 18th and 19th Streets, N.W.), National Building Museum (5th and F Streets, N.W.), Dept. of Homeland Security on Nebraska Ave., northwest of downtown.
General Services Administration says it will be updating the list.
UPDATE Wednesday 11:50 am ET
Video: A discussion of the earthquake, its geological characteristics, and long-term implications from Andre Filiatrault, PhD, Director of the University at Buffalo's Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research.
UPDATE: Wednesday 1:27 pm ET
Architect of the Capitol spokesperson Eva Malecki says via email that AOC's teams of structural engineers "moved quickly to assess and inspect all of the buildings located on the Capitol Campus, and they determined that they are all safe to occupy."
She says the U.S. Capitol reopened about 4:30 pm Tues.
The AOC is responsible for the Capitol and other major buildings nearby, including the Library of Congress, U.S. Supreme Court and House and Senate office buildings.
Malecki adds that the AOC teams "found only cosmetic issues, some cracks in plaster walls and ceilings, some chipped paint, some fallen ceiling tiles and displaced items from shelves and desks."
She says, "Many of the AOC's staff worked into the early morning hours [Wednesday] or throughout the night to ensure that everything was cleaned up and back in working order today. Essentially it's business as usual."
UPDATE: Wednesday pm
D.C. Water spokesperson Pamela Mooring says engineers and process employees checked the integrity of the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment plant, as well as critical facilities, storage tanks, resevoirs and pump stations to ensure that there were no service disruptions and that structural integrity of the facilities had not been impaired. She says, "As they were designed to do, some process systems did shut down automatically and were operated on a manual mode until the systems had been checked."
UPDATE Thursday 10:50 am
A look at earthquake vulnerabilities of older East Coast buildings.
And repairing the National Cathedral's earthquake damage will cost millions.