Earthquake Hits So. Md.

By David Noss

This interactive map shows the center of the earthquake approximately 30 miles northwest of Richmond, Va. View Larger Map

CALLAWAY, Md. (August 23, 2011 @ 1:57 p.m.)—An earthquake shook Southern Maryland at approximately 1:51 p.m. today. We have confirmed that homes shook and swayed in Callaway, Great Mills, and Lexington Park for several seconds (various witnesses report times ranging from 3 to 15 seconds). A loud rumbling sound was also heard by some witnesses.

The U.S. Geological Survey lists the quake as a 5.9 magnitude at a depth of 6.0 km, centered approximately 30 miles north-west of Richmond, Virginia at 37.875 latitude, -77.908 longitude.  USGS lists the time of the quake as 1:51:03 p.m. Eastern (15:51:03 UTC).

The Associated Press is now reporting that the quake was felt in Washington, D.C., New York City and North Carolina.

Within the past eighteen hours, USGS lists 24 earthquakes throughout the world ranging in magnitude of 2.5 to 5.9.  This afternoon's Virginia quake is the most powerful of the lot.  Nine of the 24 recent quakes struck in Colorado.

2:30 p.m.: The Charles County Dept. of Emergency Services reports that as of 2:15 p.m., the Harry W. Nice Bridge in Newburg is closed. The bridge spans the Potomac River into Virginia. The bridge will remain closed until a safety inspection is completed, say authorities.

2:40 p.m.: Various witnesses throughout the region are reporting that cell phone service is down.

2:49 p.m.: USGS has upgraded the magnitude of the quake from 5.8 to 5.9.  If you felt the quake, you can report your experience to the USGS so they can evaluate the extent of the event and any subsequent damage. See what other people have reported to USGS. Share your experiences with other readers by posting in the Reader Comments section below. Numerous discussions are also ongoing in the Community Forums (The administrator is reviewing and approving new account requests as they come in).

3:08 p.m.: Governor O'Malley tweets that he is currently being briefed by the State Police Superintendent. "We have no reports of major damage but continue to monitor the situation," tweeted O'Malley.

The State Highway Administration (SHA) reports that crews are evaluating bridges for structural integrity with priority being given to larger and very tall structures.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) reports that their outgoing alert emails are being severely delayed due to an overwhelmed internet. Train updates are available online, although we have experienced timeouts trying to load the page. Follow MTA updates on twitter.

3:30 p.m.: Calvert County Sheriff: There are no plans to close the Thomas Johnson Bridge at this time.

3:32 p.m.: USGS reports an aftershock very near the epicenter at 2:46:50 p.m. of magnitude of 2.8.  Center was 37.931 LAT, -77.935 LON at a depth of 0.1 km.  USGS official says be prepared for aftershocks. CNN reports that Virginia's North Anna nuclear power plant, located in Louisa County in central Virginia, northwest of Richmond,  near quake center has been shutdown. administrators report that Community Forums are under unusually heavy load.  This, coupled with reported internet slowdowns due to increased earthquake-related traffic may cause slow performance or connection problems.

3:41 p.m.: Waldorf Ford has posted a video of their shop area shaking during the earthquake (shaking starts around 0:40 seconds in).

3:44 p.m.: Calvert County Government statement:

The Calvert County Commissioners have activated the county emergency operations center in response to the earthquake that struck the East Coast this afternoon.

Non-essential county government operations have been suspended. A public hearing on the county water and sewer plan scheduled for 7 p.m. this evening has been postponed.

County officials have been in contact with Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. The plant has declared an Unusual Event. The plant is stable and there has been no loss of power at the facility.

Limited damage has been reported at some county buildings including schools. There have been no reports of injuries.

First responders are investigating businesses and residences that have reported problems including odors of gas. Responders are also checking shoreline cliff areas for damage.

Residents should call 911 in the event of an emergency while all others are encouraged to stay off phone lines to avoid overburdening the system. Residents should tune it to local radio and television stations for more information.

3:46 p.m.: Maryland State Police statement:

Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Marcus Brown has placed all State Police personnel and resources on standby to respond if needed following the earthquake.

All Maryland State Police barracks throughout the state reported feeling the quake, but as of 2:30 p.m., they have received no reports of serious injuries. Troopers are in contact with local emergency operations centers and local law enforcement to coordinate efforts to gather information and respond to needs in their areas. Troopers are on patrol across Maryland assessing their areas of responsibility for any injuries to citizens or major damage.

State Police officials are in contact with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and other state response agencies. Response efforts will be coordinated with MEMA per established state emergency response procedures.

All State Police helicopters are safe and have been moved out of their hangars as a precaution. State Police helicopter crews are standing by their aircraft ready to fly emergency missions if called upon.

Maryland State Police Special Operations Division personnel have reported to their posts and are on stand-by to respond if needed. This includes personnel from the STATE Team, the K-9 Unit, state search team and other specialized personnel.

Colonel Brown is in Annapolis with Governor Martin O’Malley and other state officials. They are working with MEMA to ensure accurate assessments are made in every area of the state and appropriate resources are deployed if needed.

3:48 p.m.: MTA Commuter Bus statement:

Afternoon service will operate as scheduled. Delays are possible in all areas. We regret any inconvenience and appreciate your patience at this time.

4:00 p.m.: St. Mary's County Government statement:

People are urged to only use their phones for emergency purposes only. The 911 emergency phone lines are for emergencies only. Please do not use this number unless it is an absolute emergency. For structural damage reports or non emergency calls, please call 301-475-4911.

4:05 p.m.: USGS has downgraded quake magnitude from 5.9 to 5.8—the value originally reported. Gov. O'Malley reports he has been briefed that no major damage has been reported.  More info on Md. Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Web site (Site may be slammed).

4:13 p.m.: St. Mary's Co. Public Schools statement:

Due to the earthquake, all school activities are cancelled for the remainder of the day, Tuesday, August 23, 2011. As a precautionary measure, St. Mary’s County Public School officials are assessing the condition of all school system buildings. Stay tuned for updates throughout the evening. If no further announcements are made, schools will open as scheduled on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

4:16 p.m.: Calvert Cliff's Nuclear Power Plant has issued the following statement:

Per our emergency procedures, we have declared an "Unusual Event" at Calvert Cliffs. An Unusual Event is the lowest of four emergency levels. Both Calvert units remain at 100 percent and are stable.

4:20 p.m.: Charles Co. Government statement:

There have been no injuries or broken water mains reported at this time. As a safety precaution, visual inspections will be conducted at all County Government buildings.

A liberal leave policy is in effect for Charles County Government employees for the remainder of the work day today.

As of 3:45 p.m., the Harry W. Nice Bridge in Newburg remains closed pending the completion of a structural safety inspection. According to the Maryland Transportation Authority, it is estimated that the bridge may be closed for an additional one to two hours.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office has placed variable message boards on Route 301 informing motorists that the Nice Bridge is closed. The Sheriff’s Office has also initiated traffic control activities at the approach to the NICE Bridge where all traffic is being turned around. As a result, there is no traffic congestion on Route 301 in at this time. Cliffton on the Potomac, Swan Point, and Cobb Neck residents should be able to travel home without significant delay.

Residents should call 911 in the event of an emergency while all others are encouraged to stay off phone lines to avoid overburdening the system.

4:43 p.m.: Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge on Route 301 has been re-opened to traffic. The safety inspection has been completed.

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