In Connecticut, quake caused no damage but a whole lot of chatter
Ranjeet Rawal, a contractor for General Electric, was on the fourth floor of Tower 3 at the R.D. Scinto complex in Shelton Tuesday afternoon when the building began to sway just before 2 p.m.
"It was a scary feeling," he said. "The building swayed and it felt like it was shaking. Now I know what it feels like to be in an earthquake."
Rawal wasn't alone.
Tens of millions of people from Georgia to Canada were jolted Tuesday by the strongest earthquake to strike the East Coast since World War II. Three weeks before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, office workers poured out of New York skyscrapers and the Pentagon, relieved it was just an act of nature.
There were no known deaths or serious injuries, but cracks appeared in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and three capstones broke off its tower. Windows shattered and grocery stores were wrecked in Virginia, where the quake was centered. The White House and Capitol were partly evacuated.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake registered magnitude 5.8. By West Coast standards, that is mild. But the East Coast is not accustomed to earthquakes, and this one unsettled some of the nation's biggest population centers.
In Connecticut, the quake's most measurable impact was an avalanche of tweets, emails and phone calls as residents shared whether their house shook, their desk moved or their office building swayed. There were also evacuations and infrastructure checks by utility crews and public safety workers, nervous that the shaking might have caused problems not visible to the eye.
Thousands of Connecticut state workers were evacuated from their offices, including those at the state Capitol in Hartford. State Police, who were busy Tuesday afternoon answering calls about the quake, said it did not cause any damage.
The earthquake felt in Connecticut would probably register at 2.7 on the Richter magnitude scale, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Deputy Commissioner Peter Boynton said. Such a rating usually results in little to no damage, he said.
A few thousand people who work in the eight buildings of the Scinto complex, also known as the Shelton Corporate Park, were evacuated.
"We got multiple calls that the buildings were swaying," said Joe Delco, vice president of property management for the buildings. In particular, he said, those in the top floors of the two towers at the complex, both 10-story structures, felt the sway the most.
The shaking around western Connecticut lasted as long as a minute.
Sullivan-Independence Hall in Fairfield was evacuated briefly when the tremor was felt.
Sgt. Suzanne Lussier, a Fairfield police spokeswoman, said the department received several calls about the quake, but no reports of damage. "It was felt all over town," she said.
Bridgeport spokeswoman Elaine Ficarra said the earthquake startled many residents, but no destruction was reported.
"We have received numerous calls at our Emergency Operations Call Center from people reporting that their house was shaking or their doors were shaking or whatever," she said.
"The clock on the wall was shaking like crazy," Lukac said. "It's an old building, and I thought it was coming down. It wasn't until my neighbors came in that I learned it was an earthquake."
The strongest earthquake in Connecticut history occurred May 16, 1791, when stone walls and chimneys fell, latched doors were thrown open, and a large fissure opened in the earth, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The region has had a handful of tremors in recent decades, the most memorable in November 1988, which was centered in Canada but felt as far south as Maryland.
On Tuesday, some towns in southwestern Connecticut felt barely a ripple. Officials in Trumbull and Monroe said the quake had passed them by.
But for those who felt the tremors, it was ... well, if not a life-changing event, at least a conversational change of pace.
Priscilla Lynn said the desks in her Milford public relations agency were shaking and she felt vibrations in the floor. It wasn't business as usual.
"We all looked at each other, wondering what was going on," she said.