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5.8 magnitude earthquake rattles Washington D.C. and U.S. East Coast

USGS says a 5.8-magnitude earthquake has rattled the U.S. East Coast. Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated.

Rafael Abreu: Colorado and east coast earthquakes not related

5.3-magnitude earthquake in Colorado late night August 22

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the U.S. East Coast at 1:51 p.m. EDT (17:51 UTC) today (August 23). It reportedly affected Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake’s epicenter was in Virginia, near the town of Mineral.

14 km (9 miles) SSW (195 degrees) of Mineral, VA
17 km (10 miles) SSE (165 degrees) of Louisa, VA
23 km (14 miles) NE (52 degrees) of Columbia, VA
58 km (36 miles) NW (312 degrees) of Richmond, VA
141 km (88 miles) SW (216 degrees) of Washington, DC

See this USGS page for more on the 5.9 magnitude earthquake

Did you feel it? Report an earthquake to the USGS.


Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were initially evacuated, with the Pentagon later deemed safe for reoccupation. Obama and many of the nation’s leaders were not in Washington today, but were vacationing when the quake struck. Shaking was felt all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. There are no immediate reports of injuries.

This 5.8 magnitude earthquake comes on the heels of a 5.3-magnitude earthquake in southern Colorado around midnight (local time) last night (August 22). There is no indication at this time that the two events are related.

Map Centered at 37°N, 80°W. Via USGS

The U.S. East Coast gets earthquakes, but usually smaller ones than the one that struck today, and thus this part of the U.S. is less prepared than California or Alaska for shaking.

EarthSky blogger Laura Dattaro in Baltimore reported:

The tremors were small at first, like a truck going by outside, but lasted a good 30 seconds or so, and then suddenly got a lot stronger. Papers and objects fell off desks on the first floor, and chairs rolled around upstairs. Everyone on the block ran outside and made sure to be out of the way of things in windows, like air-conditioning units. It didn’t feel strong enough to cause any damage or injuries, and I haven’t heard any reports of any.

Reports also poured in via Facebook:

From Baltimore: Did anyone just experience that earthquake? Our whole apartment was shaking for 2 minutes.

From Brooklyn: Did anyone else’s building just shake?

From Baltimore: Earthquake!!!!!! scared the h*** out of me!!!! my heart is pounding!!!!!!

Bottom line: A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the U.S. East Coast on August 23, 2011. The quake – which struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT (5:51 UTC) was centered on Mineral Virginia, 141 km (88 miles) southwest of Washington D.C.

Read more about the geology of Virginia earthquakes.

Deborah Byrd

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