The largest earthquake in Virginia history shook the region Tuesday afternoon.
The quake struck between Richmond and Charlottesville near Mineral, Va., at 37.875°N, 77.908°W at a depth of 3.7 miles. The only Virginian quake to match Tuesday’s occurred in Giles County in 1897. Both were a magnitude of 5.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Witnesses reported feeling shaking all over Virginia, and as far as Canada, Ohio and Georgia.
While there was no damage in Blacksburg, other parts of the state were not so lucky.
Significant damage was done to Louisa County Public Schools; all six will be closed until Sept. 6, according to its website. Six students and one staff member were injured.
“My hard hat fell off, I was shaking, and one of my work friends almost fell off the roof — his face was priceless,” said Morgan Harney, a 2011 Virginia Tech graduate who was working in Richmond.
Harney said the shaking lasted for about 90 seconds while he was on a rooftop.
Julia Paegle, a freshman at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said she felt the building she was in shake for about 20 seconds.
“We thought it was (the construction above us), but then we saw people running out of the building,” Paegle said. “It wasn’t too violent, then it was over.”
Other parts of the District saw more damage. Part of a National Cathedral spire fell and was significantly damaged, and some tiles in Reagan National Airport crashed onto the floor. There are reports of other minor property damage in the D.C. area, according to U.S. Capitol Police. Fire officials are also investigating major cracks in the Ecuadorian Embassy and Bell Multicultural School.
While most wouldn’t associate the mid-Atlantic region with earthquakes, minor and moderate tremors have rocked the region since the 18th century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The most recent moderate earthquake was a 4.8 that occurred Dec. 9, 2003.
Experts say it is normal for a quake this big to be felt over such a large swath of land.
“In the eastern United States, the crust is colder, and the waves travel farther without being damped out than in the western United States,” said Scott King, a geoscience professor at Tech.
“The rocks here are very solid,” said John Hole, another geoscience professor at Tech. “It will allow those waves to travel a fair distance before they get absorbed, therefore feeling it over a distance of a few hundreds of miles is quite expected.”
News editor Claire Sanderson contributed to this story.
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