The earth moved: Tri-State feels effects of 5.8-magnitude quake

August 23, 2011|From staff reports
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Tri-State area residents, along with millions of others along the East Coast, felt the earth rumbling beneath them just before 2 p.m. as a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region.

The epicenter of the 1:51 p.m. quake was about 9 miles south of Mineral, Va., in Louisa County, about 123 miles south of Hagerstown, according to the United States Geological Survey. The USGS reported an 2.8-magnitude aftershock from the same spot in Virginia at 2:46 p.m.

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake is typically intense enough to be felt by all, to move heavy furniture, and to cause slight to moderate damage in well-built ordinary structures, according to USGS.  It may cause considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures.

The USGS said the earthquake was 3.7 miles deep. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C.

There were no reports of damage at Washington County Public Schools, schools spokesman Richard Wright said at 3 p.m. Wednesday is the first day of classes for Washington County public-school students.

At 2:55 p.m. the city ofHagerstown had received no reports of quake-related damage, city Communications Manager Mary King said.

Before 2:30 p.m., Washington County crews are checking the structural integrity of county-owned buildings downtown, according to Rich Eichelberger, chief of construction of Washington County engineering and construction.

A Washington County Sheriff’s Office sergeant at the courthouse said there were a few disruptions in the wake of the shaking, but he said nothing was delayed and there was no evacuation.

Eichelberger said he was inspecting the Washington County Courthouse and county offices at 33-35 W. Washington St. and other crews were elsewhere in the county checking buidlings.

The Washington County Emergency Services dispatch center received hundreds of calls in the wake of the shock that hit the area, a dispatcher said. A home in the unit block of West Side Avenue inHagerstown was the only immediate report of damage, the dispatcher said.

“We felt it but there isn’t any immediate reaction or problem,” said Meritus Medical Center spokeswoman Mary Rizk.

Things were calm and normal at the hospital, people were just wondering what the shaking was, Rizk said.

Funkstown Town Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Haynes was in Town Hall on the phone with a reporter at The Herald-Mail office in downtownHagerstown when she felt the ground shake.

“Just everything in here, just shook,” Haynes said.

At Greenbrier State Park in eastern Washington County, rumblings of an earthquake could be felt on the  south side of the lake, according to an email message to The Herald-Mail. The emailer first noticed movement in chairs. A group of about 20 people playing volleyball felt it, the emailer said.

In West Virginia, the Berkeley County Judicial Center was evacuated for precautionary reasons by the authority of the circuit judges in the building, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, which provides security for the building.

No one was injured.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said she was halfway through her opening statement for  the trial of former Sheriff's Deputy P. Shannon Layne when the building began to shake and the proceeding before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh was halted.

The trial for Layne, who is accused of sexually abusing a woman while in uniform, is expected to span three or four days, according to Games-Neely.

Berkeley County Public Schools remained on schedule. No damage was reported, according to Sharon M. Kisner, coordinator of communications for the school system.

InFranklin County, Pa., the Emergency Operations Center is operational, according to David K. Donohoe, director of the county's Department of Emergency Services.

"Minor structural damage has been reported inFranklin County and damage assessment teams are in the field.  No reports of injuries have been reported," Donohoe said in an email.  

"We have received phone calls from citizens who have been advised by media outlets to contact DES to report if they felt the earthquake. This is incorrect," Donohoe said. "Please limit calls to the 9-1-1 center to emergency calls."

In Frederick County, Md., all Frederick County Public Schools-sponsored afterschool and evening activities are canceled for Tuesday to allow buildings to be inspected for safety following the earthquake, FCPS spokeswoman Cathy Menzel said in an email.

The City ofFrederick has taken steps to assure there is no damage to the infrastructures of city faculties as a result of the earthquake, city Public Information Officer Susan Harding said in an email. The Department of Public Works and the Frederick Police Department are checking all assets and working with the County Emergency Manager, Harding said.

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