The 5.8 earthquake caused minimal damage but resulted in significant business interruptions from New York City in the north to Richmond, Virginia, in the south. Unreinforced masonry walls, gable walls, and chimney collapses were the most common failures, with some historic buildings losing architectural parapets. Ceiling tile failures and falling furniture in one Virginia school and objects falling from shelves in homes and businesses added to the damage and disruption. The earthquake resulted in the shutdown of the nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station (7 miles from epicenter) which used backup generators to keep spent nuclear fuel cooled and to remove residual heat from the reactor. The earthquake tied up phone and internet connections, disrupted rail lines, and caused extensive traffic delays. A day after the event many public buildings and Washington, D.C., area schools remain closed. The earthquake surprised many and according to news reports, caused widespread confusion between the public and emergency personnel on how to respond.
EERI will use this event to remind earthquake professionals, federal agencies, members of Congress and the public that earthquakes are not just a West Coast problem. The importance of preparedness needs to be underscored.
EERI will establish a virtual clearinghouse at http://www.eqclearinghouse.org/2011-08-23-virginia/ where members and others can post observations on the event. A few members will each take responsibility for one of the theme areas identified. Each team member will summarize observations related to their theme, which will then be compiled in a brief report. This work will be done in coordination with several other partner organizations, including the US Geological Survey, GEER and NIST. The report will be distributed widely, including to Congress and federal agencies in addition to EERI members.