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Posted on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

Earthquake in Virginia felt in Ann Arbor

By Jen Eyer


Office workers gather on the sidewalk in downtown Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, moments after a 5.8 magnitude tremor shook the nation's capitol.

AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite

Ground tremors felt here in Ann Arbor shortly before 2 p.m. were caused by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia, reports indicate.

Rob Van der Voo, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Michigan, said he and three colleagues felt prolonged shaking in the U-M Geological Sciences lab. He said he hadn’t seen any details on the epicenter location, but a colleague in Washington D.C. had emailed him to let him know the city had felt the earthquake earlier.

Van der Voo said it was definitely possible to feel shaking here in Ann Arbor despite the epicenter taking place in Virginia. He said to feel shaking from an earthquake centered about 500 miles away isn't surprising.

However, Van der Voo said it was an unusual occurrence for Washington D.C. to experience an earthquake — historically, it’s not a major area for earthquakes.

“This is a novelty,” he said.


The epicenter was located about 40 miles northwest of Richmond.

Image from USGS

Reports from the Associated Press stated the earthquake was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.

The Washington Post spoke with Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who said that the shaking could be a foreshock.

“What the concern is, of course, is that this is a foreshock,” she said in the report. “If it’s a foreshock, then the worst if yet to come.”

Aswin Punathambekar, 33, an assistant professor of global and new media at the University of Michigan, said he was working on the fifth-floor of North Quad when felt the earthquake for several seconds. He was swaying a little bit in his chair, he said.

“The water was sloshing about in my water bottle,” he said.

Kellie Carbone, who works for the University of Michigan Health Service on Fletcher Street, said some of her co-workers thought the shaking they felt might be from a large truck blowing by, but having lived in California for 16 years, she knew different.

“I could feel the surface of the desk rolling underneath my hands,” she said. “It was going on for about 40 seconds.” She felt a similar rolling motion in the floor under her chair.

The quake was the talk of the office this afternoon, she said. “I think everyone’s pretty excited,” she said. “Some people who didn’t feel it have been feeling pretty left out.”

While living in California, she felt quakes between magnitude 6 and 7, which knocked pictures off the wall and in one case cracked the foundation of her house. Compared to that this one was pretty boring, she said.

Eileen Chaivre and Lisa Glenn, who work in the public services area on the sixth floor of Ann Arbor's city hall, said they felt the quake this afternoon.

"It was more like a swaying," Chaivre said. "It felt like forever, but it was only like 10 or 12 seconds. Then it started again."

Several readers on's Facebook page also reported feeling the tremors.

Catherine Lomax Martin said she was in the U-M Medical School when she felt the earthquake.

“My desk was shaking at the Medical School in Ann Arbor,” Martin said.

Peter Ilyich Smith reported some shaking objects on U-M’s Central Campus.

“Chairs moving and window blinds shaking in a Central Campus building,” he said.

Kyle Feldscher, Lee Higgins and Cindy Heflin contributed to this report.

This story was changed to reflect the USGS's revision from a 5.9 magnitude to 5.8.

Jen Eyer is the director of audience engagement for Reach her at



Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Hello, You need to know that I was aboard the Ann Arbor Transit Authorities #5 bus while the "quake was happening". We shook, rattled, shook, and rattled some more. Not knowing what was going on I assumed it was the road condition. Upon viewing the road in excellent condition: I turned this one over to God (what on earth was this happening). AND, I am sure the driver was curious also! We kept our coarse! THANK YOU! My question was answered when I viewed the evening news. WHAT A RIDE! Your friend, Dawn watched the evening news: We had an earth quake!


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.


Kai Petainen

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

using this site <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> leads to this paper in that area <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;qfault_id=2653</a> and in that paper, i see this From the close spacing of the searched streams and the paucity of observed dikes, Obermeier and McNulty (1998 #1872) concluded that (1) the seismic zone has not had an earthquake of magnitude larger than approximately 7 for the last 2,000-3,000 years, and for the last 5,000 years in the east, and (2) the geologic records of one or a few earthquakes of magnitudes 6-7 might be concealed between streams or between cutbanks, but such earthquakes could not have been abundant in the seismic zone. one would have to wonder if a followup study is in order....

Kai Petainen

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

looking at a shakemap... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> it seems like the appalachian mountains absorbed a lot of it. you can see a definite diagonal line in the map.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

Visiting my son in Fairfax, VA and we were jolted by the earthquake. It was a very weird feeling.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 3:28 a.m.

Of course it was felt here. This is ANN ARBOR! It's not news if it doesn't involve us!


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:03 a.m.

Too funny!

Libby Oliver

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

I live about 25 miles from the epicenter and believe me I definitely felt it - house was shaking violently. Have since had 3 aftershocks (small ones).


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

After barely surviving the '94 Northridge, CA earthquake; the comments here are pretty humorous that anyone thinks they even felt what is close to what you experience in a real quake with the epicenter less than two miles away. I live close to UM, felt nothing.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 1:44 a.m.

I didn't feel this one, but I was on the first floor of my building; last time around I was on the 6th floor and could feel swaying.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Thanks again and local posters...TOO funny!


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

I was swiffering my wood floor in my bare feet. My dog and I didn't feel anything. My daughter in Virginia felt nothing, as she was driving at the time. Her husband, an English prof in Norfolk was teaching a class, and felt a little rattle, as if a large truck had just driven by. Sometimes I think the power of suggestion has a lot to do with this type of thing, since most of the &quot;shaking&quot; reports in Michigan came out after the quake was on the news.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 1:31 a.m.


Jen Eyer

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Probably true in some cases, but we felt it in the newsroom before we heard about the quake in Virginia!

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:07 a.m.

Everyone stay calm. My mother and her cat took shelter in the bathroom.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 11:43 p.m.

Ok, I admit....I felt nothing. I feel like I'm not part of the &quot;in&quot; crowd.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

I, too, am so uncool.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 11:07 p.m.

I have never felt an earthquake in my life. Not this one, not the one that happened when I was in 7th grade, waaaaaaay back in the 80's. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. I'm not complaining, mind you. Just the thought of an earthquake scares the bejeezus out of me. If I'd felt it, I'd have likely peed myself. (Yes, I'm a wimp!) I have a friend in California who laughs at me, yet she's scared as all get out over tornadoes. Pffft.....give me a tornado any day over an earthquake. (Not that I want either to happen. It's just that earthquakes scare me way, way more.)


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

I'm glad to know. I felt it (my first one!) but my husband told me I was crazy! Then he apologized and sent me this link:)


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

I was in my car at a stop light, I thought that it was running funny, but now I know. Cool!


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Colorado stated they got a 5.3 this morning. I felt nothing. Guess I missed it again.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

After going through a quake in Alaska and tremors in CA, a 5.9 that far away wasn't felt by me...

David Briegel

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

My friend called to check on his Dad in West Virginia and his Dad answered the phone with &quot;what's shakin'&quot;!! I was workin' around the condo and didn't feel a thing.

Jody Durkacs

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

First photos of the devastation are coming out of DC! <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

Or to avoid being late for his tee time.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

LOL - Obama's picnic table, chair toppled over from the rush to meet the Good Humor man.

lindsay erin

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

Haha, this was probably taken in Ann Arbor as people try to rebuild their lives here.

G Man

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

You sure it wasn't Obama hitting the ground on a golf swing?


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:35 a.m.

Wow. Even a minor quake is a partisan issue. TOO funny!

David Cahill

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

I felt nothing here on Broadway. I expect the quake didn't transmit well through the earthen hill that our house sits on.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

But are the neon lights still bright? LOL

West of Main

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

"I could feel the surface of the desk rolling underneath my hands," she said. "It was going on for about 40 minutes." She felt a similar rolling motion in the floor under her chair. 40 minutes?!? Now I'm even more incredulous than before. You must be hypersensitive.

Kellie Carbone

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

I was misquoted. I said 40 seconds.

Jen Eyer

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8 p.m.

That was meant to be seconds; it has been corrected. Thank you for bringing our attention to it.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

Small after shock magnitude 2.8 * Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 18:46:50 UTC, same area, per USGS.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

My dog June (7 months old female, 15 pounds) might feel the earthquake. This morning, I found she pulled her bed from under a desk to the middle of the room. This had never been happened befor.

Buster W.

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Knocked me out of my chair...


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

Hmm...when my neighbors kids jump up and down in the living room, my living room shakes too....can I call that an earthquake?....


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

I definitely felt it. I watched stuff on my wall sway from side to side. I wonder if those that didn't feel anything were either in a better constructed/insulated building, or just dismissed it as a temporary unsteadiness or dizziness for a passing moment... because this was obvious. To have felt nothing at all would be strange to me.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

Oh. I don't know about that. I live in an old Craftsman, circa 1929. I was barefoot and felt nothing.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

north anna nuclear plant is near the epicenter, and a series of nat gas pipelines. hope they're ok.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

check out the price movement of Dominion Resources <a href=";range=1d" rel='nofollow'>;range=1d</a> people quickly traded on the news...

steve h

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Hopefully it doesn't make it to the Huron river


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

North Anna reactors were automatically shut down. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Kai Petainen

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

some plants are experiencing 'unusual events' -- the lowest emergency classification.

Live with Art

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

Felt it at Portage Lake, but I happened to be sitting at my table.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

Wow, what a relief. I thought my Co worker had eaten spicy food again.

Clinton Resident

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

I work in an office on North Campus at the University and was wondering why my window shade that is set inside of two glass panes was ticking against the window. The shade is blocked because of the glass panes from wind and such. My this is why??

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

I felt it in my house which is near the Arb. At first I thought my house was resettling but then I checked Twitter and the USGS page to confirm. I think it's pretty awesome how quickly you can get earthquake information from Twitter and the USGS. All in all the quake felt about as big as the one last summer, but then again, I'm in a different building today. My friend in NYC reports all the bloggers are fleeing Gawker HQ. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Over at Domino's Farm and didn't realize that it was an earthquake, but I did think to myself...WTH was that.

Mr Blue

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

In the big picture, what we know about the earth would fit on the head of a pin. We're kidding ourselves if we know any different.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

I felt it and it wasn't my imagination. My first thought was earthquake but thought I was crazy. Then I heard the news just a few minutes ago. I'm estimating it lasted less than 30 seconds.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

my computer desk started to shak and rumble, thought I was getting bad nerves at first


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

Yes I too felt it around 2


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

I'm in Milan and didn't feel anything. Is it one of those &quot;I felt it because people told me about it&quot; things?


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

Nothing here near the sports campus area....


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

We're in a really old house. I was on the second floor, where I can feel a vibration when the garage door opens.

West of Main

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

No, really. I was on campus and didn't feel a thing.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

no we really did feel it here on campus in annabor

West of Main

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

Why do I always miss out on all the fun? I didn't feel the last earthquake either.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

No, we are in a 7-story building in downtown Ann Arbor--the building shook--window blinds moved back and forth, etc.

West of Main

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

I too am skeptical of those claiming to have felt it. Were you guys in tall or poorly constructed buildings?


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

According to the comments on the CNN story--it is being felt as far north as Quebec and Ottawa--we felt it here in downtown Ann Arbor.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

I felt it near Dexter. It was 1:54 p.m., give or take a minute.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

It was felt in an office off of Green Rd., near Plymouth Rd.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

Yep felt it here on central campus - 5.9 in Virginia

Kellie Carbone

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

We felt it here at UHS on the UM campus.