6.0 Virginia earthquake evacuates DC offices


The 6.0 quake that hit Mineral, VA (50 miles NW of Richmond) about 1:50 PM impacted DC government buildings, with most of them evacuated, along with the Pentagon, White House and US Capitol evacuated for almost an hour. RBR-TVBR’s Virginia offices felt the quake, but have continued to operate. The worst effects were pictures falling off walls and a few things falling from shelves. It lasted some 20-30 seconds and was felt from Boston to Georgia. All D.C. public schools were evacuated as well.

DC TV and Radio News stations like WTOP almost immediately began reporting. The music stations in DC and Richmond continued business as usual for some 5-10 minutes, then on-air talent were talking about the quake and providing updates during stopsets.

WTOP said thousands of people poured into the streets downtown. All monuments and museums were closed. Metro trains are still operating, but running at slow speed.

Of course, cellphones and landlines were overloaded and provided busy signals within minutes after the quake. As call volume began to recover, calls could be made, but they were quickly dropped. It reminded us of 9/11 in that respect. Two Virginia nuclear power plants in the area were taken offline. This is Virginia’s largest quake in recorded history.

At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. Authorities announced it was an earthquake and all flights were put on hold.

At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built and built to the point that the building was shaking. People ran into the corridors of the government’s biggest building and as the shaking continued there were shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!”

In New York, the 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building. Court officers weren’t letting people back in.

Dennis Wharton, NAB EVP/Communications, says he thinks our readers might be interested in this message from the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency regarding the quake:

“United States Geological Survey reports an earthquake in the Metropolitan Area registering at 5.9 on the Richter Scale. Small aftershocks reported. As safety measure if experiencing please take cover under a desk, table, bed or door frames. Stay clear of windows and other glass. Please stay put. If you are outdoors find areas clear of buildings. Stay tuned to radio and tv news updates.”

In response to widespread congestion of cellphone networks following the quake, Wharton also issued the following statement:

“Policymakers debating spectrum policy ought to take note that the one reliable communications service during today’s earthquake was the original wireless technology — free and local broadcasting. It’s easy to get dazzled by iPads and Smartphones, but all the spectrum in the world won’t ensure reliability of the ‘one-to-one’ cellphone network architecture during an emergency. When there’s a crisis, it’s hard to replicate the reliability of the ‘one-to-everyone’ local radio and TV broadcast signal.”