Earthquake Rattles New York City

Updated: August 23, 2011 at 09:00 PM

People evacuated from Tribeca office building Tuesday afternoon after tremors were felt across Manhattan. DNAinfo/Olivia Scheck.

An earthquake in Washington, D.C., rattled New York City Tuesday afternoon.

The epicenter of the 5.9 magnitude earthquake was in Virginia, but tremors were felt from lower Manhattan to Midtown and all the way to Inwood. The quake shook the East Coast all the way up to Rhode Island.

“My plants did a little dance on my desk,” said Katherine Gilraine, 26, a writer who works in Midtown. “My heart rate needs to come back to normal.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was still monitoring the situation, but that agencies have reported no major damage or transportation or utility services disruptions.

“I’m happy to say no injuries reported, virtually no damage reported,” he told reporters at an emergency press conference at City Hall. No detectable aftershocks are expected through the night.

Hundreds of people spilled out into city streets as office buildings were evacuated following the brief earthquake, including City Hall and the state office building in Harlem. Workers in the Flatiron District felt their office buildings swaying. A press conference with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. was abruptly ended as the shaking forced the courthouse to clear out.

“I was working when the floor starts moving,” said Pia Ohe, 40, who works on the 41st floor of an office building in Midtown. “It’s so scary.”

Bloomberg said he was at his desk inside City Hall when the tremors started just before 2 p.m. At first, he blamed it on construction.

“I remember feeling my right elbow, I was leaning against something, and there was a vibration. And the vibration kept getting bigger. And people started to say, ‘What’s going on?’…And then it got substantial,” he said.

He said that by the time he’d evacuated the building, the shaking had stopped.

“I do understand for many people this was a stressful afternoon. But so far… we’ve been able to avoid any major harm,” he said.

Not everyone initially realized an earthquake had shaken the city.

“We thought it was just the subway, plus we had the music on,” Robert Ziegler said about the Christopher Street bar he owns, Boots and Saddle.

The MTA said subway service was not affected by the earthquake. The Port Authority said bridges and tunnels and airports were all functioning normally. Flights and Amtrak services out of Penn Station had been temporarily suspended as a precaution, but were back up and running, Bloomberg said.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said while preliminary inspections had turned up no “immediate indications of damage,” engineers have already started a more thorough inspection of tunnels and elevated structures that is expected to last through the night.

The city also experienced a spike in calls to emergency service. 911 received about 6,000 extra calls, jumping from the usual 800 per half-hour to nearly 7,000. 311 also spiked from the usual 2,300 calls up to 6,300, though no delays were reported on either line.

While Manhattan emerged unscathed, Bloomberg said there were two reports of possible minor damage in Brooklyn: a partial chimney collapse at one NYCHA housing facility and another incident on Fourth Avenue, where engineers concluded no damage had occurred.

Still, he asked property owners to do do-diligence by visually inspecting buildings for cracks and other damage.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state Office of Emergency Management was also monitoring effects.

Read the full post at

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489