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Ten Things You Should Know About the East Coast Quake

80beatsBy Veronique GreenwoodAugust 24, 2011 12:48 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news (1) First of all, in case you didn't feel it, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Mineral, Virginia at 1:51 pm. (2) It was felt for miles around---as far away as Boston, with more reports pouring into the USGS every minute. (3) The shaking lasted around 30 seconds in Washington, DC, according to the NYT liveblog, where the Capitol and the White House evacuated. No damage or injuries have been reported yet. The video above is the only one so far to show any damage. (4) It's the biggest earthquake to hit the East Coast since the 1890s---there was a 5.9 in 1897 in Virginia---and the third-largest since the USGS started keeping records; a 7.3 in 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina was the strongest. (5) Judging from preliminary USGS data, the quake was unusually shallow---about 6 kilometers below the surface---which may explain why the shaking was so dramatic. (6) Additionally, the texture of the Earth's crust on the East Coast may partly explain why shaking was felt so far away: the Maryland Science Center quoted Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the USGS, saying that on "the East Coast you have this old hard, cold crust that does a lovely job of transmitting the waves." (7) In the storm of tweets that went out after the quake, @Stanford noted that Boston is actually at a higher risk of devastating quakes than San Francisco. While the city by the bay obviously has more and more severe quakes, the city is better prepared; Boston has more old buildings, constructed before modern earthquake codes went into effect. (8) The epicenter was not far from the North Anna nuclear power plant, operated by Dominion Power. Following an automated protocol, the plant's two reactors safely went offline when the quake struck, reports AOLEnergy, and diesel generators took over providing power until they can be started up again. (9) Gizmodo is collecting videos taken during the quake: check out their gallery here. (10) If you felt the quake, tell the USGS about it here, and tell us in the comments below.

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