The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has confirmed that a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck central Virginia at 1:51 pm EDT. It is the strongest quake to hit the Virginia area since 1897.
According to USGS, the quake happened at 1:51 p.m. at a depth of 3.7 miles. The quake was centered 27 miles east of Charlottesville, Va., near the town of Mineral in Louisa County, Va. The movement lasted for no more than 30 seconds.
It was surprising because the East Coast does not frequently experience earthquakes strong enough to be felt.
The earthquake originated in Mineral, Va., an area between Richmond and Charlottesville, but its impact was felt all along the East Coast. Property damage was reported in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., and multiple major buildings in D.C. and New York were evacuated.
In Manhattan, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels were closed. Control towers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey were also evacuated, and flights were grounded briefly in Washington, Philadelphia and New York.
The earthquake is the largest to ever hit the D.C. area, bettering a previous high of 3.6 in that area. Washington D.C. was experiencing major issues with phone communications, as the area's systems were overwhelmed.
This may be the largest earthquake that we know has happened in Virginia, said Mike Blanpied, of the USGS Earthquake Hazard Program to NBC Washington. There was one of similar size down near Blacksburg in the late 1800s, but the central Virginia seismic area, which does produce earthquakes from time to time, has not, to out knowledge, produced one quite this big, even though it's an area of relatively frequent small earthquakes.
Buildings in downtown Washington, D.C. were rattled, causing parts of the Pentagon, White House and to evacuate. Obama was reportedly starting a round of golf when he felt the earthquake at Martha's Vineyard.
The nation's capital saw mild damage to some of its buildings, including the well-known National Cathedral church. CNN reported the Church experienced damage to its central pole, and a National Cathedral spokesman confirmed to The New York Times that at least three pinnacles on the central tower had broken off.
Many federal employees were evacuated after tremors rippled through the nation's capitol. Tullio Sawyers, a management analyst for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, described the reaction in his office building as half panicky, half calm.
I saw the wall behind a co-worker and the ceiling above him just shake and remember telling him this is an earthquake, Sawyers said. Everyone started screaming earthquake and then we heard a big pop, my co-worker across the hall's windows were vibrating. I could see in the neighboring building next door everyone was scrambling to get out.
Below are the some of the photos:
People stand outside the Pentagon after and earthquake
Employees of Inter-American Development Bank gather around in the median of New York Avenue
Office workers evacuated from buildings near Foley Square stand outside after magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck
Gridlock traffic is pictured on highway 395 as people evacuate Washington after an earthquake
People who were evacuated from their buildings wait in a park after an earthquake struck the east coast
A fire engine drives its way through gridlock traffic after thousands evacuated Washington August 23, 2011, following an 5.9 magnitude earthquake along the eastern United States.
A spire atop the Washington National Cathedral shows damage following an earthquake along the eastern United States