NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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August 23, 2011

Earthquake shakes East Coast

Tremor felt in greater Newburyport

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia forced evacuations of all the monuments on the National Mall in Washington and rattled nerves from Georgia to Martha’s Vineyard, the Massachusetts island where President Barack Obama is vacationing. No injuries were immediately reported.

The quake was felt in greater Newburyport communities as a slight tremor at around 1:15 p.m. There were no local evacuations or damage reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was half a mile deep and centered near Louisa, Va., about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated.

Two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in the same county as the epicenter were automatically taken off line by safety systems around the time of the earthquake, said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Dominion-operated power plant is being run off of four emergency diesel generators, which are supplying power for critical safety equipment. Hannah said the agency was not immediately aware of any damage at nuclear power plants in the Southeast.

Obama and many of the nation’s leaders were out of town on August vacation when the quake struck at 1:51 p.m. EDT. The shaking was felt on the Martha’s Vineyard golf course as Obama was just starting a round.

At the Pentagon in northern Virginia, 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!”

The U.S. Park Service evacuated and closed all National Mall monuments and memorials. 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.

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