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Boston Feels Effects Of Virginia Earthquake

This article is more than 11 years old.

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.

This program aired on August 23, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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