A 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island, New York City and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where President Barack Obama is vacationing.
The quake was also felt hundreds of kilometres north in eastern Canada.
Workers in Toronto office buildings reported feeling their desks shake. At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. At the Pentagon in northern Virginia, a low rumbling built and built to the point that the building was shaking. People ran into the corridors of the government's biggest building and as the shaking continued there were shouts of “Evacuate! Evacuate!”
The Washington National Cathedral, the highest point in the U.S. capital city, suffered damage in Tuesday’s earthquake, with three spires in the central tower breaking off of the gothic-style building, a spokesman said.
In New York, the 26-story federal courthouse in lower Manhattan began swaying and hundreds of people were seen leaving the building. In Charleston, W.Va., hundreds of workers left the state Capitol building and employees at other downtown office buildings were asked to leave temporarily.
“The whole building shook,” said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.
In downtown Baltimore, the quake sent office workers into the streets, where lamp posts swayed slightly as they called family and friends to check in.
“did you feel earthquake in ny? “It was noticeably shaking. A 5.9 magnitude earthquake emanating from Virginia caused more anxiety than physical damage in New York City, where employees at City Hall returned to work after a brief evacuation.
"Thankfully, there are no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time."
Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated buildings across the East Coast on Tuesday after a moderate earthquake in Virginia that was also felt as far south as Charleston, S.C. At the Pentagon, a low rumbling built and built to the point that the building shook. People ran into the corridors of the government's biggest building and as the shaking continued there were shouts of "Evacuate! Evacuate!"
The quake even broke a water main inside the Pentagon, flooding parts of two floors, NBC reported.
Initial damage reports from Washington included Ecuador's embassy and the central tower at the National Cathedral. At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. Quake interrupts Manhattan for a New York minute
Airport towers and government buildings in New York, including City Hall, were evacuated. Flights from the New York area's John F. Kennedy and Newark airports were delayed while authorities inspected control towers and runways. Philadelphia's airport also halted flights for inspections.
Video: Quake halts Strauss-Khan press conference (on this page)
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported "no reports of significant damage or injuries in New York City at this time."
"The whole building shook," said Jennifer Bundy, a spokeswoman for the state Supreme Court. In Ohio, office buildings swayed in Columbus and Cincinnati, and the press box at the Cleveland Indians' Progressive Field shook. At least one building near the Statehouse was evacuated in downtown Columbus.
More about the quake at breakingnews.com
The earthquake’s epicenter was near Mineral, Va., the USGS reported. Small quake has big reach
Outside the building, people tried making calls, but no one could get service.
The D.C. area last felt an earthquake on July 16, 2010, when a 3.6 magnitude quake struck.
Tuesday's quake makes it the largest to hit central Virginia in recorded history, the USGS said.