A 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the Washington-Baltimore area Tuesday afternoon, shaking office buildings, sending residents and workers scrambling and snarling traffic along one of the nation’s busiest corridors. No major damage or injuries were reported in Central Maryland.
"Stuff fell from the ceiling," said Maria Stark, an Under Armour employee from Ellicott City who was in her office in the Tide Point area on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. She said there were two shakes and after the second one, a supervisor ordered employees out. She said she thought, "'I'm getting out of Dodge.'"
Maryland State Police said they had no reports of serious injuries as a result of the temblor that hit around 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23. All Maryland State Police barracks reported feeling the quake, a rare occurrence in the Mid-Atlantic.
The quake shook a four-story building in which more than a dozen Patch editors were gathered for a meeting.
“I thought it might be terrorists,” said Patch Elkridge local editor Elizabeth Janney, noting the close proximity to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. “I also didn’t know where to go. We don’t have earthquake education here. Maybe we should.”
The building shook for about 45 seconds and about 150 people flooded out of the Tide Point building complex occupied by Aol, Advertising.com and Under Armour on the Baltimore Inner Harbor.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake had a magnitude of 5.8, with the epicenter in Virginia.
The quake was reportedly also felt in Pennsylvania, New York and on Martha's Vineyard, where President Barack Obama was vacationing.
In Maryland, residents of College Park, Hyattsville, Catonsville and other areas reported feeling the quake.
Hillary Pennington, a Catonsville resident, said she was at home with her children and made them stand under an archway. She was watching her shaking teacups to see when it would stop.
Her son, Blake, asked her if another planet "just bumped into ours."
In Prince George's County, the earthquake sent students flooding outside after schools were evacuated. There were reports of structural damage at buildings in College Park, Hyattsville and Oxon Hill. The city of Laurel of reported no major structural damage but had inspectors checking public buildings throughout the city.
Tuesday’s earthquake disrupted cell phone service in East Montgomery County, but Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service said it had not responded to any personal injury reports or structural damage.
Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric reported insignificant power outages, as did Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). Delays on Metro trains were likely, according to a release from the company.
No serious injuries or damage were reported in the Eldersburg and Sykesville areas although several residents reported how the quake affected them personally.
"I felt very strong rumbling in Carroll County,” said resident Carl Livesay. “It shook some pictures off the walls and lasted about a minute."
"I was in Shoppers (grocery store) in Eldersburg when the earthquake hit and the shelves shook,” said Eldersburg resident and Patch contributor George Welty. “It was scary. I thought someone was on the other side pushing them over."
Eldersburg resident Ben Dean said he had never had such an experience.
"Wow! House shook violently for at least a minute and everything is still trembling,” he said.
Howard County Public Schools closed for the day; one educational lab was said to have had structural damage. In a press release, Howard County government said police and fire personnel reported no serious incidents but the county activated its emergency operations center.
On Facebook, County Executive Ken Ulman said: “Major concerns are structural integrity of buildings and breaks in water/gas utility pipes. If you suspect a gas leak, evacuate and call 9-1-1.”
In Columbia, buildings along the downtown Lakefront were evacuated, including the American City Building.
On Twitter, some Elkridge residents shared plans to celebrate, including @jetlife41, who tweeted, "Earthquake party tonight," nearly two hours after the shock.
In Catonsville, no major reports of injuries or severe damage were reported. There were reports of a chimney collapse. UMBC students and faculty left buildings on campus as a precaution.
State troopers were in contact with local emergency operations centers and local law enforcement to coordinate efforts and respond to injuries to citizens or major damage.
State Police officials were also in contact with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and other state officials, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, officials said.