WASHINGTON - Tuesday marks five years since a large earthquake hit the East Coast and rocked the D.C. region. The epicenter of the quake was in Mineral, Virginia, which is about 80 miles from the nation’s capital.
The magnitude 5.8 earthquake was felt by more people than any other earthquake recorded in United States history. It stretched as far south from Georgia all the way up to Canada.
In comparison, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Napa, California on August 24, 2014 was felt by significantly fewer people. The United States Geological Survey said it because rocks in the western part of the country absorb energy better.
But could another earthquake similar to what was felt five years ago happen again?
“There is an active seismic zone,” said Thomas Pratt, a USGS geophysicist. “We are expecting there will be more earthquakes. We just don't know when and we don't know how large."
Pratt added, “We could get one tomorrow. It could be 1,000 years before we get another one. We just don't know.”
The Washington Monument was shut down for three years after it was damaged during the earthquake. Even now, the monument continues to see sporadic closures as issues with the elevator have remained a problem. The National Park Service said they now believe the effects of the earthquake had a greater impact on the elevator system than originally believed.
The earthquake also caused $34 million worth of damage to Washington National Cathedral. Even five years later, scaffolding remains at the cathedral as repairs are still ongoing. The cathedral said it has gotten only 13 percent of the repair work done and still needs more than $20 million to finish the rest of the work.
Washington National Cathedral has a special earthquake section on their website with updates and pictures of its repair work as well as a request for donations.
The most common way you will get hurt in an earthquake is from objects falling on you. Here are some tips if an earthquake does occur:
If you are inside a building:
• Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.
• Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)
• Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris.
- If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table.
- If there is low furniture or an interior wall or corner nearby, and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover.
- Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as light fixtures or furniture.
• Hold on to any sturdy covering so you can move with it until the shaking stops. Stay where you are until the shaking stops.
If getting safely to the floor to take cover won’t be possible:
• Identify an inside corner of the room away from windows and objects that could fall on you. The Earthquake Country Alliance advises getting as low as possible to the floor. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.
If you are in bed when you feel the shaking:
• If you are in bed: Stay there and Cover your head and neck with a pillow. At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; attempts to move in the dark result in more injuries than remaining in bed.
If you are outside when you feel the shaking:
• If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” Stay there until the shaking stops. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.
If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking:
• If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.