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2011 Virginia earthquake

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2011 Virginia earthquake

Shake map



17:51:04 UTC, August 23, 2011[1]




4 miles (6 km)[1]

375610N 775559W37.936N Epicenter 77.933WCoordinates:

375610N 775559W37.936N 77.933W

Type Countries or regions

Earthquake United States Canada

Max. intensity VII (very strong)[2]

The 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred on August 23, 2011, at 1:51 pm EDT (17:51 UTC) in the Piedmont region of the U.S. state of Virginia. The epicenter, in Louisa County, was 38 miles (61 km) northwest of Richmond and 5 miles (8.0 km) south-southwest of the town of Mineral.[1][3] It was an intraplate earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8 and a maximum perceived intensity of VII (very strong) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Several aftershocks, ranging up to 4.5 Mw in magnitude occurred after the main tremor.[4] The earthquake, along with a magnitude-5.8 quake on the New York-Ontario border in 1944, is the largest to have occurred in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains since an 1897 quake centered in Giles County in western Virginia[5][6] whose magnitude has been estimated as 5.8[7] or 5.9.[8] The quake was felt across more than a dozen U.S. states and in several Canadian provinces. No deaths and only minor injuries were reported.[9][10] Minor damage to buildings was widespread. The damage was estimated by one risk-modeling firm at $200 million to $300 million, of which about $100 million was insured.[11][12]


1 Geology 2 Impact o 2.1 United States 2.1.1 Virginia 2.1.2 Washington, D.C. 2.1.3 Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia 2.1.4 Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York 2.1.5 New England 2.1.6 Midwestern states 2.1.7 Southern states o 2.2 Canada

3 Aftershocks 4 Internet activity and social media 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

[edit] Geology

Generalized geologic map of the central Virginia Piedmont with faults and earthquakes (M>2, 1973-2011) The earthquake occurred in the Virginia Seismic Zone, located in the Piedmont region.[13] The Virginia Piedmont area was originally formed as part of a zone of repeated continental collision that created the ancestral Appalachian Mountains, a process that started in the Ordovician period with the Taconic orogeny and finished in the Carboniferous Period with the Alleghenian orogeny. The reverse faults formed during the various orogenies were partly reactivated in extension during the Mesozoic Era as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. During the Cenozoic Era, some of these structures have been further reactivated in a reverse sense.[14]

The earthquake's epicenter and most of the aftershocks lie between the surface traces of two structures, the Spotsylvania fault, a southeast dipping zone of high ductile strain, and the Chopawamsic Fault, a thrust fault.[15] The earthquake's focal mechanism shows reverse slip faulting on a north to northeast striking fault plane. The size of the rupture is as yet uncalculated, but similar quakes have been caused by slippage along fault segments that are five to 15 km long.[1] After the earthquake, several websites speculated about whether hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas production could have caused or contributed to the quake.[16][17][18] Although there were no fracking operations underway in Virginia at the time of the quake, fracking was taking place in the Marcellus shale in West Virginia, a neighboring state.[19] According to United States Geological Survey geologist James Coleman, there is evidence that fracking "causes relatively small earthquakes," but "smaller than what we had here in Virginia."[16]

[edit] Impact
Main article: Impact of the 2011 Virginia earthquake Tremors from the Virginia earthquake were felt as far south as Atlanta, Georgia;[20] as far north as Quebec City, Quebec;[21] as far west as Illinois[22] and as far east as Fredericton, New Brunswick,[23] with damage reported as far away as Brooklyn in New York City.[24] Although earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. are much less frequent than in the western U.S., they are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rocky Mountains, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. Western rock is relatively young, which means it absorbs a lot of the shaking caused by earthquakes. Thus, western earthquakes result in intense shaking close to the epicenter, but fade more quickly the farther the earthquakes travel. In the eastern United States the rock is far older, and the earthquake energy can therefore spread farther and have a greater impact. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake can usually be felt as far as 300 mi (483 km) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 25 mi (40 km). The relatively shallow depth of this quake also contributed to its widespread effects.[25][26]

[edit] United States

Soon after the earthquake, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered a ground stop along the East Coast, causing some flight delays. The Air Traffic Control tower at John F. Kennedy International Airport was evacuated.[27] Flights were delayed at several airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Philadelphia International Airport.[28] At National Airport, ceiling tiles fell in one terminal, and flights were halted.[29][30][31] A spike in cell-phone calls immediately after the event congested the AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, and Frontier Communications networks in the Mid-Atlantic region, causing disruptions and loss of service for up to an hour after the earthquake.[32][33]

[edit] Virginia The epicenter of the earthquake was in Louisa County, Virginia, where damage was greatest and several minor injuries occurred. The town of Mineral, located 5 mi (8 km) from the earthquake's epicenter, reported the collapse of two buildings, as well as minor damage to several other structures, including the collapse of the ceiling in its Town Hall. Several minor injuries were reported there, among them people reporting chest pain after the shock of the experience.[34] Fallen chimneys and other structural damage to buildings were reported in Mineral and in Louisa, the county seat. The Gilboa Christian Church, in Cuckoo, was heavily damaged and rendered unusable.[35] At Louisa County High School, cinderblocks fell in classrooms, and cracks were seen in walls. Six students there had minor injuries. Louisa County schools were closed on August 24 while engineers assessed damage to school buildings.[36] The high school and Thomas Jefferson Elementary were closed for the remainder of the school year.[37] Inspections revealed that 65 homes sustained major or severe damage and 125 homes experienced mild to moderate damage.[38] Damage in Louisa County was estimated at $80.6 million of which $63.8 million was from damage to public school buildings and $14.7 million was from damage to residences.[39][40] On August 25, county officials declared a state of local emergency in order to allow them to request state support.[38] The two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station, located 10 mi (16 km) from the epicenter, shut down automatically seconds before off-site power was lost because multiple reactor sensors detected a slight power reduction as a result of vibrations in the reactor or monitoring devices.[40][41][42] The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent additional inspectors to the Virginia plant after preliminary measurements suggested that the ground shook more than the two reactors were designed to handle. The damage detected so far has been minimal and the NRC said the additional inspection should not be interpreted to mean the plant is less safe.[43][44] In Charlottesville, about 27 mi (43 km) from the epicenter, a gas leak closed several streets, including West Main Street.[45]

Some employees evacuated the Pentagon moments after the earthquake In Spotsylvania County, the August 24 opening of public schools was delayed while damage to buildings was assessed.[46] Six patients were treated at the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center for minor injuries resulting from the earthquake.[36]

Several buildings in Culpeper, about 37 mi (60 km) from the epicenter, sustained structural damage. The brick faade of the Levy Building, built in 1848, collapsed and the building was condemned and demolished.[38][47][48] The walls of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, constructed in 1821, buckled and were deemed unstable by town officials. Another church, Culpeper Baptist Church, built in 1894, lost its chimney. Schools in Culpeper County delayed their scheduled August 24 opening to assess damage to buildings.[46] Two minor earthquake injuries were reported by the Culpeper Regional Hospital.[47] Damage in Culpeper was estimated at $10 million.[40] In Fredericksburg, about 37 mi (60 km) from the epicenter, the Dickinson Building on the campus of Germanna Community College was deemed unusable for the rest of the semester, and classes were canceled indefinitely until alternative classrooms could be found.[49] Also in Fredericksburg, a gas leak led to the evacuation of homes and businesses in a two-block radius.[36] Officials estimate the damage total at around $711,000.[40] In Arlington County, a burst pipe flooded two corridors at the Pentagon. Employees, many of whom left the building when the earthquake was felt, were alerted to the flooding by an alarm system that was installed after the September 11 attacks.[50] Nearby Alexandria also reported structual damages though no injuries.[51] [edit] Washington, D.C.

Damage to the Embassy of Ecuador. The White House,[52] the Capitol, and various other buildings were evacuated. The afternoon rush hour was affected, as many workers left early,[53] and the Washington Metro system's trains ran at reduced speeds while tracks and tunnels were inspected.[54] A National Park Service spokesperson reported that surveys revealed cracks near the top of the Washington Monument, the world's tallest stone structure, which was closed indefinitely.[55] [56] The quake damaged three of the four pinnacles (corner spires) on the central tower of the Washington National Cathedral, cracked some of its flying buttresses, and caused additional

damage.[57][58][59] As the cathedral's insurance policy did not cover earthquake damage, cathedral officials stated that they would need to raise millions of dollars to fully evaluate the damage and to stabilize and repair its limestone exterior.[59] The Smithsonian Castle incurred damage to five decorative turrets, and fifty jars of preserved specimens fell from shelves at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.[60] The Embassy of Ecuador suffered structural damage, including three collapsed chimneys and cracked internal walls.[61] The Treasury Building suffered minor damage to exterior railings, some of which fell to the ground and caused closure of a sidewalk.[62] Other damage reported in the District of Columbia was minor, and no injuries were reported. Staff at the National Zoo reported that the behavior of some of the animals in the