Tremors from an earthquake whose epicenter was in Virginia were felt up and down the East Coast of the United States, including throughout New Jersey and here in Lawrence Township, this afternoon (Aug. 23).
It was 1:51 p.m. when the quake - a 5.8 on the Richter scale - occurred about 27 miles east of Charlottesville, Va., and was felt just minutes later across New Jersey and other states hundreds of miles away.
No injuries or damage have been reported thus far in Lawrence Township.
"The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management is monitoring the effects of the earthquake across the Garden State," said acting Lt. Stephen Jones, spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.
He said Col. Rick Fuentes, state police superintendent and director of state OEM, is keeping updated on developments regarding the earthquake and has been in constant contact with the Gov. Chris Christie's office and other state department and local officials.
"At this time, there are very few reports of damage to any infrastructure in the state," Jones said. "Roadways, bridges and tunnels all seem to be intact. Deptford Township in Gloucester County has reports of a gas leak on one street and there have been several residential evacuations at that location. Also, Gloucester County College reported a gas leak in one building that has since been evacuated. There were no reports of any injuries."
He said the seismic activity triggered an "Unusual Event" declaration at Hope Creek and Salem nuclear power plants, but that is a normal response to such an event. There have been no reports of any damage at either facility, he said.
"Mobile phone service was unavailable for many users, but preliminary indications are that this disruption was due to an extremely high call volume generated by users," Jones said.
"Although aftershocks cannot be ruled out, the distance from the epicenter would indicate that there is need not be a great concern for New Jersey residents," he added.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is reporting that there have been no operational or safety issues as a result of the earthquake, but they have dispatched employees to assess any potential damage to facilities. PSE&G is checking electric transmission lines and switching stations, natural gas facilities, gas transmission lines and mains. There are no customer outages being reported at this time.
Earthquake hazards are measured as the likelihood of experiencing earthquake shaking of various intensities, according to the Federal Emergency Agency.
Northern New Jersey is put in a category that's low on the list and described as "having a hazard shaking of moderate intensity," which could be felt by all and could lead to slight damage.
Southern New Jersey is put in a category described as having "a small probability of experiencing damaging earthquake effects."
Commentary about the earthquake has exploded across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
What did you experience during the earthquake? What were your first thoughts? Share them with us here on Lawrenceville Patch.
“I was sitting at the computer doing some work and my wife happened to be walking through the kitchen. The first thing we noticed was the sound of the plates in the cabinets beginning to rattle. That was odd, because they never rattle. And then we felt the house start to shake. My wife asked, ‘Did something blow up?’ But the shaking continued and it finally hit home that we were experiencing a real earthquake. We sort of stood there for a second in disbelief and wondered what to do (stand in a doorway, get out of the house, etc.). And then it was over. My wife was calling neighbors and I went to Facebook to see if anyone else felt what we had. Then we heard a broadcast over the police scanner that the earthquake had hit Virginia. That caused more panic than actually feeling the tremor, as my wife’s family is from Virginia. Luckily we were able to get through to them and confirm they were all OK.” – Michael Ratcliffe, Lawrenceville Patch Local Editor.
Lawrenceville Patch Reporter Jacquelyn Pillsbury said her 9-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old friend Emily “were dancing to the Wii in the basement and didn't feel a thing. Well, Emily thinks she might have felt something, but it did not slow them down.”
Lawrence resident Kathy Patterson was changing her newborn daughter Lexie when she felt the tremor. “Because the floors have a little vibration in spots when you walk heavily I thought, ‘Who is in the house!’ Then I realized the mirror on the outside wall was shaking too. I tried to see if a large truck was driving by and finally wondered if the rain yesterday might have caused a cave-in somewhere under us. All this in about 30 seconds. I didn't confirm it was an earthquake until I called [her husband] Scott 15 minutes later.”
“I was on a conference call with a colleague from Virginia, and she felt it very strongly. We were discussing whether she should get off the call to go check on office mates when I felt it here.” – Roberta Howard Hunter, via Lawrenceville Patch’s Facebook page.
“I was sitting on the couch thinking it was odd that it felt like a mini-quake. Both dogs who were lying next to me picked their heads up at the same time and looked at me.” – Lawrence Township resident Carol Bastian via Facebook.
“I am a Mercer County resident and I was at Island Beach State Park with family and my first thought was, ‘Grab your sand pails, kids, and haul butt. We are outta here! I don't want to find out if a tsunami is next or not.” – Wendy Dillon, via Facebook.
"I live in Lawrence Square Village and felt it... scary." - Regina Rossi McDaniel, via Lawrenceville Patch’s Facebook page.
Lawrence Township resident Audrey Bochantin said, "I felt the house shake and was startled, but the cat stayed sleeping on my lap."
The United States Geological Survey is asking those who felt the earthquake to fill out an online survey to assist their information gathering.
Click here for historical information about earthquakers in New Jersey, including the 5.3 quake that occured in the Garden State in 1783.
Guidelines from Federal Emergency Management Agency on dealing with earthquakes:
What to Do After an Earthquake
- Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio or television. Listen for the latest emergency information.
- Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.
- Inspect utilities.
For more information go to - http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/index.shtm
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2011.