WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated buildings across the East Coast on Tuesday after a moderate earthquake in Virginia that was also felt as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. No tsunami warning was issued, but air and train traffic was disrupted across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.
In the Washington, D.C., area, parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were among the areas evacuated. All memorials and monuments on the National Mall were evacuated and closed.
At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built and built to the point that the building shook. People ran into the corridors of the government’s biggest building and as the shaking continued there were shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!”The quake even broke a water main inside the Pentagon, flooding parts of two floors, NBC reported.Initial damage reports from Washington included the central tower at the National Cathedral and Ecuador’s embassy.
Centered some 90 miles south of the nation’s capital, the quake was a magnitude 5.9, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Two nuclear reactors near the epicenter were taken offline as a precaution, officials said. No damage was reported at either.
At the U.S. Capitol, light fixtures swung and the building shook for about 15 seconds while the tremor hit, NBC News reported.
At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. All flights were briefly put on hold and one terminal was evacuated due to a gas smell.
In New York City, NBC reported debris fell from the attorney general’s office, causing a brief panic as people ran from the area.
Airport towers and government buildings in New York, including City Hall, were evacuated. The 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building.
Flights from the New York area’s John F. Kennedy and Newark airports were briefly delayed while authorities inspected control towers and runways.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported “no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time.”
A mild tremor was even felt by NBC reporters with President Barack Obama during his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off Massachusetts.
In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.
“The whole building shook,” said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. “You could feel two different shakes. Everybody just kind of came out on their own.”
In Ohio, where office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati and the press box at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field shook. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.
In downtown Baltimore, Md., the quake sent office workers into the streets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family and friends to check in.
Keep checking back for more updates!