Shockwaves roll through region

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Residents of eastern North Carolina were stirred Tuesday afternoon when shockwaves from a rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., rippled across the region.

In Washington, D.C., the Pentagon, White House and Capitol as well as memorials and monuments on the National Mall were evacuated as shockwaves were felt from South Carolina to Massachusetts and as far west as Illinois.

Robin McKeithan, business manager at the Washington Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, described the experience on the banks of the Pamlico River.

“The building started shaking. We looked outside thinking it had gotten a big gust of wind off the river, but the trees weren’t blowing. We walked outside and saw others doing the same. We asked someone what had happened, he said ‘I think we’ve had an earthquake’!”

Kathryn Pisciotta was napping in her Washington Park home when the quake jolted her awake. A former California resident and earthquake veteran, Pisciotta immediately sensed the cause behind her disturbed sleep.

Her suspicion was confirmed when she saw a swinging chandelier in her home.

“That’s always confirmation that we’ve had a little quake,” she said.

Melissa Henley was sitting in her father’s building at McCotter’s Marina east of Washington when the windows started to rattle.

“The windows just kind of started shaking and I was like, ‘OK,'” the Washington High School sophomore said. ” I didn’t really think about it. I was like, ‘Well, it could be an earthquake but I don’t think so.’”

The Associated Press reported that more than 12 million people were close enough to the epicenter to feel shaking based on statistics provided by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Although far less common than West Coast earthquakes, East Coast earthquakes tend to be felt over a broader area because the crust is not as mangled and fractured which allows seismic waves to travel without interruption.

“The waves are able to reverberate and travel pretty happily out for miles,” U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough told The Associated Press.

For more coverage, see Wednesday’s edition of the Washington Daily News.