A magnitude-5.9 earthquake struck central Virginia Tuesday at 1:51 p.m. ET, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. The quake's epicenter was located near Mineral, Va., 87 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Capitol, White House, Pentagon and other government buildings were briefly evacuated — and some sustained "minor structural damage," CNN reports — but there are no reports of major damage or injuries. The Washington Monument was cracked in the quake, Reuters reports, and the Washington National Cathedral suffered "substantial damage," according to its website.
The USGS has detected some aftershocks in the area, including a magnitude-4.2 tremor Tuesday night. The initial quake — which hit just 0.6 mile below the surface — was felt as far away as New York, Baltimore, Atlanta and even Canada, according to widespread accounts. The East Coast's older, harder bedrock lets seismic waves travel farther than in the West, LiveScience reports, and can amplify their shaking. "Im in Cambridge Mass, and we felt it SIGNIFICANTLY!" MNN reader Jill Somers writes on Facebook. "Felt in Michigan," adds reader Jennifer D. White. "[T]hought I was crazy." Other readers report feeling tremors across much of the Eastern Seaboard and Midwest; many also say they felt it in Canada.
"I was sitting at my desk working and the chair and desk started moving back and forth, then I felt the floor beneath my feet move a bit," says MNN food blogger Robin Shreeves, who was at home in southern New Jersey when the quake hit. "I yelled to the boys in the other room and asked them what the heck they were doing. Then my husband came downstairs and told everyone to get out of the house. It wasn't until then that I realized it was an earthquake. I've never felt one before."
According to the USGS, this quake was the largest for Virginia since 1897. The agency includes only three others in its list of historic Virginia earthquakes, but the Washington Post points out that a magnitude-3.6 quake also hit near Gaithersburg, Md., last year (it was some 2,000 times less powerful than Tuesday's tremor). CNN reports Virginia has had 25 documented earthquakes since joining the U.S. in 1788.
The Virginia earthquake comes less than 24 hours after a series of temblors hit Monday night and Tuesday morning in southeast Colorado, another region that doesn't get much seismic activity (although it does get more than Virginia). The first of those quakes, a magnitude-4.6, hit at 5:30 p.m. local time Monday, followed by seven more over the next 15 hours. The largest had a magnitude of 5.3, striking Monday at 11:46 p.m. near Trinidad, Colo., and was felt 350 miles away. The New York Times reports it was Colorado's largest natural earthquake in more than a century.
Stay tuned to MNN for more updates as they come in. And check out this interactive explainer for more information about earthquakes in general.
Below is a USGS map of earthquake risk in the U.S., represented by ground motion as a percentage of gravity, or "% g." Mineral, Va., is located in an area of green (8-16 percent g), while Trinidad, Colo., is in a pocket of yellow (16-32 percent g).
(Editor's note: This post was last updated Aug. 24 at 9:31 a.m.)