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Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake Shakes Union County

Phenomenon centered outside Richmond, felt in New York, Washington D.C. as well

An earthquake rattled through the mid-Atlantic region of the country around 2 p.m. Tuesday and was felt in several Union County towns, including Westfield.

The earthquake, the epicenter of which was said to be in central Virginia, has been confirmed and its effects were felt throughout New Jersey, according to a brief email released by UCFirstAlert. Facebook updates confirm the phenomenon was felt in Westfield, Cranford, Union, Scotch Plains and Elizabeth, among dozens of other locations in New Jersey and cities in states as far south as North Carolina and as far north as New Hampshire. 

The email, sent by Allan Attanasio of the Mountainside Fire Department, states that "[u]nless you have damage or resulting issues that need to be address[ed] please do not call police headquarters. Numerou[s] calls are being made reporting the tremer (sic), we are aware of it. Thank you."

Calls made by Patch to Westfield Town Hall Tuesday afternoon continuously received a busy signal. 

Westfield Residents told the Patch that they felt shaking while on Lawrence Avenue. Jayne Bernstein said the Coldwell Banker building downtown was shaking. 

At Starbucks in Westfield, busy baristas say they didn't feel the tremor at all. Customers, however, knew something wasn't quite right.

"It felt unstable. I was puzzled but not scared because I've had this experience a while ago, " said Yelena Foskarino, who said she had experienced an earthquake before in her native Ukraine. "I was glad I didn't miss it, to be honest with you."

For a moment, Foskarino said she thought someone may have been kicking the bench on which she was sitting against a wall in Starbucks.

In Newark, City Hall was evacuated around 2 p.m. Seton Hall Law School had its new semester briefly interrupted when classroom walls began to shake and library stacks began to sway. 

There were no immediate reports of any injuries or structural damage, according to the Star-Ledger. The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that a magnitude 5.9 earthquake was centered in central Virginia, and the Associated Press is reporting the quake was felt in Washington, New York City and North Carolina. 

According to the Federal Emergency Management Association, New Jersey ranks low on the list of states at risk for experiencing an earthquake.

Earthquake hazards are measured as the likelihood of experiencing earthquake shaking of various intensities, according to FEMA. Northern New Jersey is put in a category that's low on the list and described as "having a hazard shaking of moderate intensity," which could be felt by all and could lead to slight damage. Southern New Jersey is put in a category described as having "a small probability of experiencing damaging earth­quake effects."

Did you feel the earthquake? Share and discuss your experience in the comments.

Lizabeth Duffy August 23, 2011 at 07:31 PM
I felt it in Florham Park - I was shaking in my chair and had to get off the phone - it was so surprising and strange!
Westfield Mom August 24, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Felt it in Newark, NJ!
Gary McCready August 24, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Wasn't John Celock supposed to move down there about that time? Knew he would have a big impact...
John Celock August 24, 2011 at 03:56 PM
Gary - Thanks! Actually haven't moved down full time yet, but I was in DC yesterday for meetings all day. I was walking back from lunch at the time of the quake and was in front of the White House.

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