Boston Feels Effects Of Virginia Earthquake

We started this post as a live blog, which is below. We’ve topped it with a writeup of the news.

BOSTON — An earthquake centered in Virginia caused confusion and forced some building evacuations in Boston Tuesday, but there were no reports of serious injuries or damage.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake happened at 1:51 p.m. with an epicenter nine miles south of Mineral, Va., rattling the entire East Coast.

Both Boston Police and State Police said they received a rush of 911 calls at around 2 p.m., but police and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said there were no reports of injuries or damage. Logan International Airport remained open but received some flight diversions from other East Coast airports.

Some workers emptied into Boston streets as buildings were evacuated, including U.S. District Court in South Boston and another eight-story building in the seaport district that houses the United Way.

“It felt as if I had vertigo,” said United Way spokesman Brian Adams in a statement. “It lasted a few seconds and then it kicked up again lasting a total of 15 seconds or so. We all looked at each other and then the blinds started to sway and the desks and windows began to creak. Then it hit everyone that it was an earthquake. We all went to the stairwells and quickly evacuated the building.”

WBUR has heard from many residents that mild, dizzying shaking could be felt throughout Greater Boston. The WBUR Newsroom, on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, felt the quake.

“[It] actually felt like somebody, you know how you sit down and you shake your knee and make the table shake,” said Felicia Cannon, who was on the third floor of Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. “It’s very slight, but there was a speaker that’s standing tall on the floor and I was like, OK, it’s not just me, it’s the building.”

“I thought I was going crazy,” said Charles Odence, who was sitting at his desk in the Prudential Center. “I thought I had vertigo or something, so I kind of just took a step back and then everyone was making a commotion and I realized that it was an earthquake.”

John Ebel, the director of the Weston Observatory at Boston College, says Tuesday’s earthquake should serve as a warning.

“It’s not like we can say, ‘OK, we expect an earthquake in the next year or two, therefore, now’s the time to prepare,’ which means we have to be preparing all the time,” Ebel said. “Today’s earthquake is a reminder that we really do need to prepare.”

Compiled by Benjamin Swasey; with additional reporting from The Associated Press

Live Blog Updates:

Update at 4:41 p.m.:

For its analysis, the U.S. Geological Survey is collecting “Did You Feel It” data. You can input your location here.

Update at 4:40 p.m.:

NPR reports that although the earthquake was in “historic range” for the East Coast, a U.S. Geological Survey spokeswoman said “the biggest earthquake to strike the East Coast happened in the late 1800s in South Carolina.”

Update at 4:23 p.m.:

The Globe reports that UMass-Boston ended summer classes and sent home workers “after the tremors rattled nerves on the Dorchester campus.”

Update at 4:05 p.m.:

The U.S. Geological Survey now says the quake was magnitude 5.8.

Update at 2:54 p.m.:

Boston’s Logan Airport says that it’s getting some flight diversions from some East Coast airports.

Update at 2:45 p.m.:

For many in Massachusetts — and many at WBUR — this earthquake was a first. There’s been plenty of reaction on Twitter and in our comments. Here’s a sampling:

@MistyEdgecomb: We swayed a bit on the 5th floor of a building near Downtown Crossing.

@EAlmquist: Books on the shelves at @pearson in Boston shook off the shelves.

Michael Huddy, from the 18th floor of the old John Hancock building: “Felt like the building was being swayed. And at first I thought it was just me and then I started looking around and saw all my coworkers also having the same experience.”

@REBostonPR: …Thought I was having a dizzy spell! But then it happened again!

@mageoffroy1: …i’ve lived here all my life. that was a first.

@THarlukowicz: I survived the #Boston Earthquake 2011. #Hero

Update at 2:35 p.m.:

Emailed statement from State Police:

The Massachusetts State Police Communications Section has fielded several dozen calls from members of the public in the wake of the earthquake that hit the eastern seaboard about a half hour ago. We have received NO reports of injuries or significant structural damage from any of the emergency callers.

Boston Police also said no damages or injuries have been reported.

State Police also add that they felt the tremor at their headquarters in Framingham.

Update at 2:26 p.m.

The federal courthouse in South Boston was evacuated, among other buildings. We’re checking on other significant evacuations. So far, no local damage has been reported.

Update at 2:22 p.m.:

More specifics from the U.S. Geological Survey, per the AP:

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was half a mile deep. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The quake was centered near Louisa, Va., in Louisa County, which is northwest of Richmond and south of Washington.

Update at 2:18 p.m.:

Here’s the word from Dr. John Ebel, director of Weston Observatory of Boston College and also a professor of geophysics at BC:

At 1:51 p.m. this afternoon there was an earthquake. It looks like it was centered northwest of Richmond, Va. Preliminary magnitude of 5.8, that may change, and we’re getting reports that it was felt here in the Boston-area.

This is a big earthquake. There’s the potential for damage in the epicentral area and we’ll have to wait until reports come out of that. There’s also the possibility of aftershocks down in the Virginia area — I don’t know whether any of them would be large enough to be felt here in Boston.

Original post:

If you felt shaking around Boston just before 2 p.m. today, it wasn’t your imagination.

A reportedly 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Virginia could be felt soon after in many East Coast states, including here in Massachusetts.

We’ll update this post with more.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • http://twitter.com/maryisawesome maryisawesome

    We felt it here at the Boston Public Library! Pretty weird.

  • Scott

    We evacuated our building in Salem, MA and found many others who also felt their building shake.  Oldly, people sitting down felt it strongly while people standing next to them did not feel it.  Local estimates are that our building was swaying between 5 and 10 seconds.

  • Katherine

    We felt it here at MIT! I’m on the sixth floor of one of the buildings. At first, I just thought I had been staring at my computer monitor for too long when the room started moving. Then I noticed the lights swaying and realized it wasn’t in my head. This was a very strange and unexpected experience; I’ve never been in an earthquake before and never expected one to occur here in Massachusetts!

  • http://twitter.com/suzannepekow Suzanne Pekow

    We felt it in Arlington, Mass.! I’m on the 7th floor of an apartment building and thought I was going to be sick!

  • Acsjdseds

    We felt it here in Lima, Ohio as well.

  • Deepak

    Our dog, who has ESP, slept through it all.  Its a dogs life.

  • Qtdon01

    we felt it here in wilmington,nc

  • Michael Rectenwald

    Add Davidson, NC to the list who felt the quake!  Hope there are no injuries to those closer to the epicenter.

  • Steve

    Up in Lawrence we folks in the mill buildings felt the earthquake quite a bit, and half of them emptied out. It was not a mandatory evacuation, however. So it reached this far at least!

  • momek

    I felt in on the 2nd floor of my home in North Brookline.  I was wondering what caused it, since i didn’t feel any large trucks go by and there was no construction work going on in my neighbhorhood.  Now I know!

  • Quinterkaren

    we felt it here in South NJ too. It was pretty scared even that i have been in an earthquake situation before. It was still a little scary for tho. Hope there are no injuries that everybody is okay.

  • Lindsey from Natick

    I had just finished lunch and sat back down at my desk chair at work when I felt it. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, that my heart was beating really hard or something, but I just so happened to be listening to NPR and heard the report of the quake a few minutes later.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ECTCE36ZUBDBL2CW6B6YBVFX6Y Dave Cunningham

    I just paíd $22.85 for an íPad 2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasoníc Lumíx Camera that we got for $38.78 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $625 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CeñtHub.côm

  • Nia Marsh

    I felt the earthquake in Brookline. I was in the couch and it was rocking gently. I looked outside and everything looked normal. Shortly after I took a nap.

  • Anonymous

    Did not feel a thing here in Hyde Park. 

  • Anonymous

    google “fracking and earthquakes” then google “Fracking and Northern Virginia”  are the two related?

  • Michalsd

    I definitely felt it. I was on the third floor of my home, working at the computer, when the house started shaking. It felt like a bunch of people running up the stairs. The monitor was shaking like crazy. I didn’t think much of it at first — thought it was just my next door neighbor. But he wasn’t home! (Then, I heard about the earthquake and realized what it was.) Wild!

  • Nevermo

    I work in a large brick (old mill) building in downtown Lawrence – sometime after 2 PM, we felt and heard a rumble & others in the building saw computer monitors shake, etc. Many people evacuated the building, others did not (including me). It seems like it wasn’t felt equally throughout the building.  This is the second time I’ve experienced an earthquake before – thankfully never near the epicenter so I guess I’ve just felt the aftershocks.  Weird sensation & unsettling – no pun intended!

  • bossoccer

    Building on Devonshire St. downtown is leaning.  Police has street blocked off.  Our building on Franklin Street shoot quite a bit.  We would be doomed in a big quake.   Picture below.  It’s the little building on the left after the big bank building.  Not the one that is bright with sunshine but just before that.  The building is leaning on to the bank building, you can see the columns are leaning left.

  • Kkan66

    didn’t feel anything at all here in Bedford ,MA

  • TG

    I’m all the way in Great Barrington and felt the bed and furniture shaking, looked outside and my car was rocking!  I thought it was a train passing…and couldn’t imagine how a train passing could cause all of this??  Were there any other reports coming from this part of the state?

  • bossoccer

    Apparently, the building on Devonshire always looks like that–kind of leaning a bit.  False rumor!

  • MTD

    I work on Beacon Hill in an old building and we were rocking and rolling it was quite surreal, we evacuated the building for about 45 minutes, I am still trying to wrap my mind around an earthquake in Boston, Ma….  WOW

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712286422 Jureeporn Jomsaisri

    Also didn’t feel anything ..

  • cathieman

    Didn’t feel a thing here in Tewksbury

  • Paul, Boston, MA

    I was sitting at home in South Boston doing a crossword puzzle at the time of the quake. Never felt a thing, didn’t know about it until I checked the news at about 4:00pm. Neighbors said they didn’t feel anything either.

  • Kay

    I was rowing on the Charles and there was a small wake or two but no boats around. I thought it odd.  Must have been the quake 

  • John of Medford

    Everyone in my office with the exception of myself and two others felt it on the 20th floor of 125 High Street in Boston.   Some experienced a brief nausea / vertigo feeling.  According to a security guard with whom I rode the elevator down with when I left work, quite a few people in my building and in International Place next door actually left the buildings and were hanging around the street for a bit.

  • nanucka

    I felt the tremor on the 2d floor of our home in Dover, NH (built on a concrete slab). I thought maybe the cat had somehow activate the massage function on my desk chair by pawing a button I didn’t know existed. But the vibration stopped and then started again, and the cat wasn’t in the room. I forgot all about it until my husband read the news and said he had the same experience at his computer.

  • Glane

    I felt it in my apartment in Jamaica Plain. The stool I was sitting on was shaking and swaying and I felt the building moving.  I knew immediately that it was an earthquake and sure enough, the top of the hour news update reported the earthquake.

  • Deb V

    I had just parked my car and was listening to an audiobook before going in to a medical appointment. I wondered momentarily if it was an earthquake, but since there was only the one vibration, I promptly forgot about it until I saw everyone talking about it online today. Had to check the time of the event to be sure I hadn’t dreamed feeling it-I had experienced 3 minor earthquakes in the midwest during the eighties.

  • Elizabeth

    Never felt anything at my home in Plymouth but my husband works in the Prudential Bldg, and it definitely swayed so that employees wondered whether to evacuate (they didn’t).  I’m saddened this morning to see the damage to several turrets of Washington’s National Cathedral, as well as to the flying buttresses that support the older portion of the church – where the altar and Great Choir are.  Fortunately, none of the beautiful stained glass windows were cracked or broken and there have been no reports of damage to the beautiful bells in the Great Tower.  I went to National Cathedral School in the 1960′s, when none of the newer front portions had been built, but the bells were installed the year I graduated, and the tolling bells reminded us of both sad and happy times in our lives: when President Kennedy was killed, a single bell tolled for at least 24 hours, and most of us can still hear than doleful sound.  The smaller bells tolled joyfully for our graduation the next spring, and that too will be a great memory.  Whether were Protestant, Jewish, or Muslim, a survey of my classmates all mention the dominant role the building had in their high school years life.

  • Bigguy

    Sorry about that guys that was just me taking a really nice dump

  • bam13

    there is that earthquake they predicted in the next year or two..

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