It’s been one year since a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook up what had started out as a typically lazy August afternoon in the Mid-Atlantic. Discussions of the temblor’s rarity ultimately outsized the severity of damage (and that’s NOT a bad thing), and topic is now largely limited to "where were you when..." recollections.
Other outcomes of that earth-shaking afternoon are still very much with us as well.
The Washington Monument garnered most of the post-quake headlines, sustaining cracks, spalling, and mortar loss, as well as interior damage that will keep the iconic 127-year old 555 ft, 5-1/8 in tall unreinforced masonry obelisk closed to the public until at least early 2014 while the National Park Service implements a $15 million repair program. That work is scheduled to begin next month.
One thing NPS won’t have to worry about is foundation work. A post-quake survey found no unusual settlement to the 90,000-ton structure, despite its location on sand, clay, and gravel fill.
The story is somewhat different up Massachusetts Avenue at the National Cathedral, which suffered the loss of many exquisitely carved, structurally significant limestone pinnacles atop the Central Tower, cracked several flying buttresses, and cost a gargoyle its head.
Like the Washington Monument, the Cathedral was found to be structurally sound. Though reopened for services a tours, the already-cash-strapped Cathedral faces a $20 million effort to replace the damaged components, most of which will come in the form of private donations.
In Louisa County, the rural Virginia communities closest to the quake’s epicenter face a different kind of recovery.
Four of the county’s schools sustained $61 million in damage, and two were closed permanently. Though $28 million in federal disaster assistance will help fund new structures, this year’s freshmen at Louisa High School may well graduate without ever having taken a class in something other than a “temporary” trailer.
And while the nearby North Anna Nuclear Power Station received a clean bill of post earthquake health by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dominion Resources recently announced plans for $40 million in upgrades to ensure that the facility is ready for any subsequent seismic activity.
The improvements to safety systems and structures are in addition to Dominion’s pending application to construct a third reactor at the site.
There's been no rush to update seismic building codes in Virginia, despite the region having a literally and figuratively more active geologic history than most realize. Nevertheless, many state and local agencies have integrated earthquakes into their emergency response planning. After all, nobody knows when the next "moving experience" will occur.