Wednesday, 24 August 2011

5.9 magnitude earthquake strikes Virginia


5.9 magnitude earthquake strikes Virginia, shaking felt in New York; White House, Pentagon evacuated

Originally Published:Tuesday, August 23rd 2011, 2:13 PM
Updated: Tuesday, August 23rd 2011, 5:53 PM
Office workers evacuate their buildings along Water St. in Manhattan after feeling shaking from the earthquake that struck Virginia.
Andrew Theodorakis/News
Office workers evacuate their buildings along Water St. in Manhattan after feeling shaking from the earthquake that struck Virginia.

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Shaken, not stirred

Do you think New York City could handle a major earthquake?
An earthquake centered 340 miles south ofNew York sent thousands of people running out of swaying office buildings across the city Tuesday and briefly grounded flights.
It was the first major quake to hit New York in decades but it left the city shaken, not stirred.
"For many people this was a stressful afternoon, but so far we've been lucky to avoid any major harm," Mayor Bloombergsaid.

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The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter Scale. The epicenter was half a mile deep and centered near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles from Richmond.
The quake, which hit at 1:51 p.m. and lasted only a few seconds, was felt up and down the Eastern Seaboard - from the Carolinas to Toronto.
The tips of three spires on the National Cathedral in Washington fell off, part of a building collapsed in Baltimore and a brick chimney crumbled atop a housing project in Red Hook.
That was the worst of it - except for the panic.
More than 12 million people may have felt the quake's sickening swaying, the USGS said.
"Wow, that was scary," said Nathan Buck, 41, a filmmaker who was editing a video on the 7th floor of a pre-war building in Harlem. "I saw my globe start to wobble. At first I thought - is it me? Then a pile of CDs came crashing down."
Mario Brocco, 41, was waiting for his cousin's case to be called in Bronx Supreme Courtwhen the floor began to lurch beneath him.
"I thought the building got bombed and it was 9/11 in the Bronx," he said. "I grabbed my son and held him as tight as I could. I have never been so freaked out in my life. I thought the building was coming down."


Office workers gather on the sidewalk in downtown Washington after the quake. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
New York's City Hall and police headquarters were evacuated, along with many office buildings.
Cellular service was disrupted as millions of people simultaneously reached for their phones to place a call or send a text message.
The city said calls to 911 spiked to 6,900 in the half hour between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m, most placed in the final 10 minutes. Normally, 911 receives 800 calls in a half hour.
No problems were reported with the MTA's bridges and tunnels or the subway, but flights at Newark and Kennedy Airports were briefly grounded as a precaution.
"There are no initial reports of major infrastructure damage, including at airports and nuclear facilities," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest after President Obamaconferred with his emergency management team
In Washington, D.C., most major buildings were evacuated. The quake shook the White House and was felt on Martha's Vineyard where President Obama was playing golf when it hit.
Two nuclear power plants near the epicenter in Virginia shut down automatically as part of a normal safety mechanism.
Gov. Cuomo said there was no damage to the state's power grid, roadways or the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
The MTA said field engineers would inspect elevated structures and tunnels overnight.
Thousands of frightened workers congregated on city sidewalks, afraid to return to their jobs for fear of aftershocks.
"It felt like I was in a boat," said Charlene Lloyd, 25, works on the 60th floor of the Empire State Building. "I was on the phone with a client, and I hung up and ran."
Bloomberg said he initially thought his desk at City Hall began shaking because of major construction in the historic building.
He and staffers hurried from the building, pouring down the iconic front steps and urging each other to run faster from what some feared was a building about to explode.
When it became clear the shaking was not just limited to City Hall, the mayor and his aides relaxed and began joking.
"It could have been an exploding story in a tabloid for all I know," Bloomberg said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was in the NYPD's 14th floor executive command center planning a 9-11 memorial service. "We felt a rumbling and the floor shaking underneath," said his spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
Mary Lupoli, 64, a supervisor in the NYPD's public inquiry office at 1 Police Plaza, said she thought the worst when the evacuation order came.
"I kind of thought it could be a terrorist attack. It's THAT time," she said.
The 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people fled into the street.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. had to abort a press conference about Dominique Strauss-Kahn when his two top prosecutors ran for the door and security guards tried to drag him out.
"I'm okay," Vance said, as the room rapidly cleared, leaving him alone at the podium. "I've been through earthquakes in Seattle all the time."
In downtown Brooklyn, office workers streamed out of buildings and big crowds formed on the sidewalks as people milled around, confused or scared to go back inside.
Cell networks were overwhelmed, so people lined up to use payphones.
"Everything was shaking - your desk, the doors, the windows. We just ran out," saidDenise Bluger, 40, an administrative worker from Queens Village.
"It was the first time I ever felt anything like that. It was like, 'Oh my God, is this building about to fall down?'"
Marc Lieberman, 50, a paralegal who lives on the upper East Side, felt everything sway in his 23rd floor office.
"The room moved. I moved. It was just weird," he said. "So we just got the hell out."
Former Associated Press Tokyo Bureau Chief Richard Pyle was on his roofdeck inBrooklyn - but suddenly found himself 7,000 miles away.
"For two minutes, it was like being transported back to Japan," he said. "No doubt what it was, even though I don't recall ever experiencing a quake in NYC before."
In Times Square, hordes of tourists massed as usual - very few even knew anything had happened.
The quake seemed to have been distinct mostly to people indoors.
"The chandelier in the living room was swinging side to side. I thought I was dying," saidNicole Kon, 31, who lives on the 16th-floor of a 23-story complex in Coney Island.
Belinda Bryant, 48, of the Bronx, who works on the fourth floor of 16 Court St. in Brooklyn, said she wasn't going back to her office today.
"You know there is an aftershock, so I know I'm not staying around here," she said. "Now I'm glad we practice fire drills."
In Clinton Hill, BrooklynTed Lewin, a 76-year-old children's book illustrator, said he still queasy 20 minutes after the swaying stopped.
"I still can feel it in my stomach a little bit. It's really funny what it does to you," he said.
In Queens Superior CourtAdministrative Judge Fernando Camacho grabbed hold of an eighth-floor doorway to steady himself until the shaking stopped.
"I turned to my secretary and said 'What's going on?' I never felt anything like that before," he said.
The last big earthquake felt in New York was in 1992, when a 4.7 magnitude quake shook buildings.
The biggest earthquake to ever hit New York was a 5.2 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. It knocked down some chimneys.