The outer edge of a 5.9-magnitude earthquake shook the entire eastern seaboard this afternoon, from Delaware as far north as New England, according to multiple reports.
Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, said aftershocks could be expected in Delaware for days, perhaps weeks. Those aftershocks will likely be smaller than the original earthquake.
“Very occasionally you can get an aftershock that’s bigger,” Jordan said. “But that’s low — probably 1 in 20, maybe 50 chances.”
Aftershock sequences tend to happen right after the initial quake. To be on the safe side, Jordan recommended removing any heavy or breakable objects that could fall and injure someone.
“A lot of people are injured by stuff falling, so make sure that big rock you picked up on vacation isn’t sitting on a shelf,” he said. “The chances of getting large shakes are small, but my advice would be to do now what you should be doing all along.”
Stefanie Baxter, geologist with the Delaware Geological Survey, said it is near impossible to tell how long after the event aftershocks could be felt.
"That's the thing about earthquakes," she said. "They're never expected."
Baxter said the shakes Delawareans reported feeling today were the equivelant of between one and two points on the Richter Scale.
The tremor hit shortly before 2 p.m. in Delaware, several minutes after the initial quake, which was centered on Washington, D.C. There have been no immediate reports of damage, and according to police and fire departments from Milford and Georgetown, they haven't had to send out a single car or fire engine as a result of the tremor.
"All counties and the city of Wilmington have been canvassed and are reporting no damages," said Roseanne Pack, a spokesperson for the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.
Baxter said the last time an earthquake of this size occured on the East Coast was 1886 in Charlestown, S.C. That quake was measured between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter Scale.
Cyndi and Matt Davis were at their Cedar Tree Apartment, located at the corner of Foulk and Naamans Roads, packing for a picnic at Brandywine Park with their two daughters when they felt the walls shaking today.
“There is construction going on in the apartment above us, so we just thought it was that,” Matt Davis said.
But after about 45 seconds of shaking, Matt, who is currently a student at the University of Delaware, received a text from the University, letting all students know it was safe to return to their buildings.
“Then I knew it wasn’t the construction!” he said.
John and Sandy Davis of Bear were sitting in their two-story townhouse when they felt the earthquake hit.
“I was sitting in my chair, and she was on the computer and the whole house shook,” John Davis said.
Their granddaughter was asleep in the next room and awoke from the noise.
“Our house was not damaged at all but our daughter who lives in Newark had pictures fall off the wall,” Sandy said.
Police in Smyrna and Clayton also had no reports of injury or damage.
Shortly after the earthquake, City of Dover officials huddled to assess the damage in City Hall, including Mayor Carleton Carey.
Officials were checking Central Middle School for damage, and Chesapeake Gas was checking on gas leaks in the area, Dover spokeswoman Kay Sass said. And the Capital School District had so far found no damage among its schools.
But even if the physical damage was minimal, the experience was very significant.
“When things started to move I thought I was going to have to check into Kent General because I was out of my mind," said Alfonzo Ricketts, of Dover.
The Louis L. Redding City/County Building in Wilmington was evacuated earlier today during the New Castle County Council’s finance committee meeting.
Middletown Transcript reporter Kim Manahan was on the eighth floor of the building and said the shakes were felt before alarms went off. Elevators were not allowed to be used, therefore all floors were evacuated through the emergency exits through the stairwell.
Buildings in the local vicinity were also evacuated, Manahan said.
Council passed a motion to move the meeting from the eighth floor to the first floor.
Sarah Davenport, 32, of Brandywine Village, was walking into her home with her husband, Kevin, 57, when they felt the tremor.
“The China cabinet and glassware began to rattle and I called to Kevin that there was an earthquake, and headed for the doorway for safety," Sarah said. "I got excited. I like when Delaware is on the news.”
Cyndie Moody, manager of Nature's Way in Smyrna, said some of her merchandise fell.
"I thought the people next door (at a salon) mixed some chemicals they shouldn't have," she said. "Then I checked the roof — silly me. But we've had people up there before that I had to report."
Other employees at businesses in the Smyrna Mart plaza rushed out their doors as the quake shook.
Nicole Kibler, co-owner of Hot Lock Salon and Spa, said at first she thought it might have been an explosion.
(An earthquake) is the last thing I thought it would be," she said.
No merchandise was ruined at her salon.
“I felt like I was tripping, or in another state like California," said Rob Denero, of Wilmington, who was in Dover for the quake. "It’s scary. It makes you want to live every day like it’s your last.”
Hunter Lord, 12, of Dover, was in a beauty shop with her mother and tried to clean up.
“My mom was telling me to move, but I didn’t understand why," she said. "A bottle fell, and I was going over to pick it up.”
She added that she wouldn't mind living through another one. “It was pretty cool.”
Frank Fantini, a Dover businessman, was in his office when the shaking started.
“All of a sudden things started shaking," he said. "We have a girl who works with us who’s from California, and she pretty much acted the same way we did — she was pretty surprised. I’ve lived in Delaware for a long time and I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It wasn’t all that bad; sounds like nobody got hurt.”
City Editor Jesse Chadderdon was at lunch at the Bay Road Buffalo Wild Wings when he said cocktail glasses hanging from a rack began shaking and clinking together. Patrons began asking one another whether they felt the rumbling, moments before a cable news network reported the earthquake on one of the restaurant's televisions.
Pack said the effects of the quake include "minimal" power outages and a single gas-line rupture. Cell phone service outages have also been reported.
DelDOT Spokesman Gary Laing said initial reports in from the four districts serving DelDOT are that no damage was suffered among the department’s various infrastructure of roadways and bridges.
“The Indian River Inlet Bridge under construction was inspected and no damage was found,” he stated in a press release. The adjacent existing span over the Indian River Inlet is being surveyed, but there is no apparent damage reported at this time. There are no reports of damage to roadways and no closures caused by the earthquake that was felt along major portions of the east coast.”
Representatives from the Dover Air Force Base reported the base experienced minimal impact. All operations, including the Youth Center and Child Development Center were operating under normal conditions, by the end of the day.
Dover Police Dept. Captain Tim Stump reported no damage in Dover.
"We've been inundated with calls but they're mainly people calling for confirmation (of the earthquake) so we were fortunate," Stump said.
Dover Fire Chief Jack Fortney said the fire department went on seven runs as a result of the earthquake. The runs were for gas leaks, structural damage and some evacuated buildings.
Construction crews working at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital stopped working for the day as a precaution, said Pam Marecki, assistant vice president of marketing communications for Bayealth.
Bayhealth nurse Terri Horvath was on the fifth floor when the earthquake hit Delaware. She knew what was happening immediately.
“We were frightened,” Horvath told the Dover Post. “Initially, I thought I was getting lightheaded or something. And then I was like, the whole building is moving. They thought it was construction. I said no, it’s an earthquake.
“We just reassured our patients and said everything’s going to be OK,” she added.
Joan Reaves, on the other hand, did not feel the tremor while she was in one of the cafeterias at Delaware State University. But she certainly saw the commotion it caused, including a security guard who received a report of the tremor on his radio.
“I said, oh my. I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said. ‘It would have surprised me here on the East Coast. The last time I felt something like that was in the 70s; I was in California.”
Staff writers Jennifer Hayes, Sarika Jagtiani, Jeff Mitchell, Danielle Bouchat-Friedman, Kim Manahan, Antonio Prado and Jesse Chadderdon contributed to this report.