D.C. earthquake strong by regional standards

Michael Watson Contributor
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The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Eastern Seaboard at 1:51 p.m. Tuesday is as powerful as any to strike the Virginia seismic region in recorded history.

Another 5.9 magnitude quake hit Giles County, Va., on May 31, 1897.

That tremor was felt from Georgia to Pennsylvania and damaged chimneys in the towns near the epicenter, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

No earthquake epicenter has ever been recorded in the District of Columbia.

The 1811 and 1812 New Madrid earthquakes, centered in the Mississippi River Valley, were also felt in Washington, D.C.

A 1918 Virginia-centered quake broke windows in the District. President Woodrow Wilson was in Washington at the time; contemporary accounts note that his aides contacted newspaper offices to identify the cause of the disturbance. (RELATED: D.C. monuments, museums closed; no major structural damage reported)

There are records of Virginia and D.C. residents feeling tremors centered in the St. Lawrence River Valley. Maryland and the Northeast United States also feel the effects of some Canadian earthquakes.

Geologists at Virginia Tech reported measuring 160 earthquakes in Virginia from 1977 to 1994, only 16 percent of which could be felt.

The USGS has already reported two aftershocks from the Aug. 23 quake, each measuring less than 3.0 on the Richter scale.