Largest Earthquake in D.C. history?

The Washington, D.C., area, and the entire East Coast from North Carolina to New York City was shaken up Tuesday afternoon by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake. The quake was centered around Mineral, Virginia, which is roughly 100 miles from downtown D.C. and its major suburbs.

According to Reuters, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting the quake to be 5.9 magnitude. Earlier reports immediately after the earthquake ranged from a magnitude of 5.8 to 6.2. Depending on the final official report, this could potentially be the largest earthquake recorded in Virginia or Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol Building were evacuated as a result of the quake, which was felt in Washington D.C. at about 2 p.m. More government and public buildings have also been evacuated, and as of this time, there have been no reports of substantial damage or injury.

The Washington, D.C., earthquake originated at about 1:15 p.m. outside of Mineral, Virginia, which is 100 miles southwest of the city and metropolitan area. That means it took approximately 45 minutes for the quake to travel to the district and the surrounding suburbs.

In Bethesda, Maryland, the quake was strong enough to shake buildings, send books toppling from shelves, and put animals into a frenzy. Residents in the area are certainly not used to coping with earthquakes, let alone ones as powerful as this, so it came as a surprise to those going about their typical afternoon routine.

The common response was the one everyone becomes familiar with as a child – stand under a doorframe and brace yourself. This writer had his beagle under one arm as he stood in the hallway and shielded himself from breaking glass from a nearby picture frame.The trembling lasted for about 60 seconds and kicked in without any warning or lighter rumblings. Smaller trembles were felt in the minutes that followed.

The previous recorded high for an earthquake in the history of Virginia is a 5.8-magnitude trembler from May 31, 1897, that struck in Giles County. That was the only recorded earthquake over a 5.0 magnitude in the history of the state.

In the summer of 2010, an earthquake centered near Rockville, Maryland, made big news as one of the largest ever recorded in the immediate Washington, D.C., area. However, that one paled in comparison, coming in at only 3.6 on the Richter scale. Still, it was the largest recorded quake within 50 kilometers of Washington, D.C., since an official record was kept in 1974. The earthquake record books for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia will need to be rewritten after this one is accounted for.

This article was first published by Jake Emen on Yahoo! News, on August 23, 2011