Earthquake in DC!

I just experienced what I can only assume was a minor earthquake on the 11th floor of an office building in DC. The building shook for several seconds, stopped, and then shock for another few seconds.

A 3.6 magnitude quake a little over a year ago set a record for the area; I’m guessing this was even more minor.

If we’re going to get California maladies, we should at least get better weather.

UPDATE: A quick scan of my Twitter feed shows that people are getting quakes up and down the Northeast Corridor, with tremors reported in New York and Boston.

UPDATE 2: Wow: 5.8 is the preliminary USGS estimate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. EarthQuake2011 says:

    I felt it too in Catonsville, Maryland

  2. henry says:

    i felt it too

  3. Kenny says:

    felt it hear in New Jersey

  4. Kenny says:

    felt it here in New Jersey

  5. Nick says:

    I felt it in Arlington, VA. Pretty strong. They evacuated the Pentagon briefly…

  6. EarthQuake? says:

    omg i felt it too in ashburn, va….

    my whole house was shaking, it was freaky.

    according to the news the earthquake had a 5.8 magnitude.

  7. Tedd says:

    CA weather with CA quakes, I second that thought! Wow, We have a large brick Victorian 8 blocks form the White House and it shook well. Two cracked windows and very apparent shakes when I stood. I was chasing the dogs out of the house and heading to check our furnace when it stopped. Lasted about 30 seconds. Your posting confirmed what I suspected. …

  8. John Burgess says:
  9. Richard Gardner says:

    The national media is focusing on the DC area; I haven’t heard any reports yet from the closer cities of Richmond and Charlottesville (Mineral VA epicenter). In NYC they have shut down the airports for inspections. Magnitude has gone from 5.8 to 6.2 to 5.9.

    Problems with cell phones in DC (probably too many calls overloading the systems). Typical.

  10. Felt it up here in PA too.

  11. John Burgess says:

    USGC is showing reports of people’s feeling it for about 310 miles from the epicenter, that is, to NY, OH, and NC, with maybe a few from SC.

    Didn’t feel a thing here in FL, of course. But we’re watching the water and hurricanes, instead.

    Friends in DC are reporting books flying off shelves and pictures off walls. Everyone’s quickly checking their home insurance for earthquake coverage.

  12. JohnMcC says:

    I blame gay marriage!

  13. Hey Norm says:

    Felt it in SE Connecticut, pretty close to the Connecticut River. It came in two waves – our building shook for a good 20 seconds. Pretty cool. Lots of granite between here and there to transmit waves.

  14. inhumans99 says:

    And Colorado just had its largest quake in nearly 40 years (5.3 mag) late last night…mother nature is feeling a bit cranky this week (further evidence of her feeling a bit testy…the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, and might make landfall in the states over the next several days).

    I am now in the bay area (but my parents have a home in Southern CA, and I was living with them when the Northridge quake hit us medium-hard), so I tend to forget that other parts of the U.S. are indeed vulnerable to quakes (the past 24 hours is a stark reminder of this fact).

  15. Herb says:

    Yeah, that’s weird. Just as weird…southern Colorado had a couple of earthquakes last night, one of them registering 5.3. The Denver Post says it was the largest earthquake in CO in 40 years.

  16. Herb says:

    @inhumans99: JInx!

  17. Yeah, felt it pretty good in Pittsburgh

  18. Rob in CT says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Interesting. I felt nothing in Hartford.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    NPR has reported that it was upgraded to a 6.0.

  20. Hey Norm says:

    @ Rob…
    Really? I’m suprised. It was pretty pronounced here…everyone in the building that I’m in felt it, and I’ve gotten texts from friends around town who felt it as well.
    Hartford sits in the lowlands on brownstone and clay. We’re sitting on solid granite down here in Essex.

  21. Rob in CT says:

    Well, Norm, I have on occasion been accused of being unobservant…

    But no, seriously, I felt nothing and heard zero chatter at the office. If others had felt it, there would be a buzz over it.

    Essex… heh, I was gonna guess Moodus.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Lots of granite between here and there to transmit waves.

    I have read in a # of places that granite does not transmit seismic waves near as well as limestone. The reason is that granite tends to be fractured where as limestone, which is laid as a solid sheet, is not.

  23. Shaken, not stirred says:


    Colorado had a 5.9 earthquake as well yesterday.

    VERY unusual to hear about that… but DC?

    BAM !!! Nat’l news.

  24. Rob in CT says:

    My wife (also here in Hartford) informs me that though she didn’t feel anything either, several people on her floor thought they did.

    edit: a friend on my floor says she felt it, but didn’t realize what it was until she heard about the earthquake.

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    limestone Is not so much. It does of course fracture in some circumstances.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My wife (also here in Hartford) informs me that though she didn’t feel anything either, several people on her floor thought they did.

    We had a quake here a couple months ago. Strong enuf to wake me. Rattled things for about 30 secs. The wife never woke up.

  27. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ozark….
    Thanks…now I have to read up on granite and limestone.

  28. inhumans99 says:

    I just thought this was funny:

    MAP 5.9 2011/08/23 17:51:05 37.881 -77.952 0.1 VIRGINIA
    MAP 5.3 2011/08/23 05:46:19 37.070 -104.700 4.0 COLORADO
    MAP 5.1 2011/08/23 01:23:00 33.155 76.839 41.6 KASHMIR-INDIA BORDER REGION

    The above is from a google search for a site that provided a link for magnitude 5.0 or greater earthquakes from the last seven days…bet it will a LONG time before you see Virginia and Colorado on the list again! lol. The rest of the list is the usual ring of fire suspects…Solomon islands, Japan, India, Vanuatu (the ground must be constantly moving, they comprise most of the list in the link). In fact, Vanuatu had at least two over 7.1 mag….wow, so common that unless the quake sets of a tsunami warning in that part of the world, it is not news.

  29. Rick Almeida says:

    Shocks supposedly were felt in parts of SC, but not where I am.

  30. Jim says:

    I can confirm that we felt some tremors here in Greenville, SC.

  31. Moosebreath says:

    I felt it here. There’s a water main break in Valley Forge National Park,(about 1 mile from my office), which may be related to it.

  32. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ozark…
    Obviously, as you point out, the amount of fracture will have an impact. Bottom-line: without testing there is no way to know how specific material will transmit seismic waves.
    Generic numbers I found are 8000ft/sec for limestone and 12,000 ft/sec for granite. Soil layers can be around 2000 ft/sec or even lower.
    Just using round numbers…it happened at 1:51…I looked at my clock after it ended here and it said 1:55. So assuming 3 1/2 minutes +/- and 430 +/- miles it was moving somewhere between 10,500 and 11,000 ft/sec. Call it 125 mph.

  33. michael reynolds says:

    I am so sick of you East Coast people horning in on the things that make the West Coast special.

    You copy our street gangs, you copy our superficial celebrity-obsessed culture, you copy our lowriders, you copy our tans, now you take our earthquakes? What’s next? I suppose you want our ineffectual, paralyzed government, too! Well you can’t have it.

    Okay, you can.

    But Mudslide Season is all ours. Back off.

  34. Hey Norm says:

    @ MR…
    Promise you’ll keep the Kardashians?

  35. Hey Norm says:

    430 miles/3.5mins = 122.85mph.
    Call it rounding errors.

  36. Hey Norm says:

    I’m such a bonehead…miles per minute.

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Hey Norm:
    I happen to be looking at Alcatraz Island as I write this. Can I keep the Kardashians there?

  38. john personna says:

    You sure you weren’t just crackin’ a New Belgium?

    (Coincidence, or not!)

  39. Hey Norm says:

    I’ve seen some harbor seals in that area that remind me of them…so yeah…that works.

  40. Neil Hudelson says:

    Colleagues felt it in Cincinatti!

    @Hey Norm:

    Friend of mine lives in Hoboken. Guess who just bought a house there…rhymes with Slim Flardashian.

  41. Hey Norm says:

    Ho – boken?

  42. DC Loser says:

    I’m on Bolling AFB and it felt like a 6.0 (lived in CA and been in all sorts of quake, including 7.6, so know what they feel like).

  43. Leida says:

    I live in bowie Maryland and it was pretty strong O.O