One of the strongest earthquakes to strike the US east coast in decades rattled offices about 2 hours in downtown Washington and caused panicked evacuations from skyscrapers as far away as New York.
The Pentagon, the US Capitol and Union Station in the nation’s capital were all evacuated after the 5.9-magnitude quake, which was shallow with its epicenter only one kilometre underground.
The disruption to cell phone services in the hour after the quake added to the sense of panic in a country preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
The North Anna nuclear power plant near the epicentre of the earthquake at Lake Anna, Virginia automatically shut down without incident and no damage was apparent, a spokesman for Dominion Power said.
Seismologists from the US Geological Survey said the epicentre was 47 kilometres from Charlottesville, Virginia, and 139 kilometres from Washington, where Reagan National Airport was also evacuated.
The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was the largest in the state of Virginia since May 1897, when a 5.9 quake struck in Giles County, near the western edge of the state.
The quake was felt as far away as Martha’s Vineyard, around 800 kilometres away, off the coast of Massachusetts, where President Barack Obama was playing golf during his vacation.
In New York, thousands of people poured onto the streets as evacuation procedures put into place after September 11 attacks were activated.
Let’s hope this is not a sign of things to come! 2012 is not too far away! ahhhhhh!