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Tuesday
Aug232011

Earthquake Shakes Northeastern United States

U.S. Geological Survey(NEW YORK) -- An earthquake shook a large portion of the northeastern United States on Tuesday from Washington, D.C., and Virginia all the way up to New York City and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where President Obama is vacationing.

The 5.8 magnitude quake originated near Mineral, Va., shortly before 2 p.m. ET, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There was no immediate word of damage or casualties.

"This is the largest earthquake we have recorded in Virginia ever," said Dr. Lucy Jones, seismologist with the USGS in California.

Though a powerful quake is rare in the northeastern part of the U.S., USGS geophysicist Peter Powers says the region isn't exactly new to the phenomenon.

"There have been earthquakes," Powers said, but they're "generally smaller in size."

Powers says it's possible that the eastern part of the country could experience aftershocks from Tuesday's quake: "We would expect some," he said, "but they will most likely be smaller -- if not, much smaller in magnitude."

At the Pentagon in Fairfax County, Va., shaking was felt "very strongly for several seconds," according to an ABC News producer on the scene.

ABC News staffers in Washington, D.C., witnessed people "pouring out" of government buildings as a precaution. Alarms reportedly sounded at the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Justice buildings.

The White House, Treasury and Eisenhower Executive Office Building were evacuated for 90 minutes following the quake, sources told ABC News. They have now reopened.

"The entire ABC bureau shook," said ABC News correspondent Andy Field from the network's Washington, D.C., headquarters. "At first it felt like someone was drilling in the building and then the entire floor vibrated and everyone immediately headed for the stairs."

In Fairfax, Va., resident Dick Albinger said he felt the earthquake and, as a California native, knew exactly what he was dealing with.

"Neighbors had had curios and that sort of thing knocked off the shelves," Albinger told ABC News. "We didn't have any of that damage, although we did have a few pictures that were on mantles and that sort of thing that fell to the ground."

Further north, New York City Hall was evacuated as a result of the shaking. ABC News correspondent Aaron Katersky watched the evacuation and reported feeling the shaking underfoot.

"It was quite severe," Katersky said. "But at first I thought it might have been the subway. Sometimes the streets of New York City vibrate when the subway rolls underneath. But then very quickly we knew something more was happening when all of City Hall was evacuated."

"Police started shouting to get away from the building and all the staff, including [Mayor Michael Bloomberg] started running down the steps," Katersky said.

“Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time," Bloomberg said. "As ever, we urge New Yorkers to call 911 only in cases of actual emergencies."

“As we await more news from Virginia and elsewhere, our thoughts in New York are with those who were more directly affected by this natural disaster.”

And in Martha's Vineyard, where President Obama is on vacation, ABC's David Kerley says they felt the shaking, too.

"The president's out golfing," Kerley said. "We don't know whether or not he felt it, but definitely if you were in a building here on Martha's Vineyard, you felt this one."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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