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Quake shakes DC building

Washington—ADA employees quickly and safely evacuated the Association’s D.C. building, joining crowds lining downtown streets Aug. 23 after a 5.8-5.9 magnitude earthquake shook the east coast. The U.S. Geological Survey, which revised early magnitude measures, reported the quake as occurring at 01:54.04 PM at the epicenter near Mineral, Va., 87 miles southwest of the nation’s capital.

No physical damage was visible in the immediate aftermath of the tremors, although news accounts reported damage to at least one building, the Washington National Cathedral in northwest Washington. Most employees returned to their desks within the hour. Washington Office employees were given opportunity to leave early.

“At first I thought it was one of those big trucks shaking the building,” said Kathy Clary, staff technical support associate and volunteer crisis incident commander under the Association’s business continuity plan. She directed evacuating employees to a nearby church building offered as a meeting point in an emergency. Crowds lined the streets around the church, area buildings having been evacuated, but no one was entering the church. One church employee said she was going home.

“Then the building really started shaking and that lasted 15-20 seconds,” Ms. Clary continued. “But even when it stopped, the floor was vibrating.” Her office is on the 12th and top floor of the ADA building. Some 20 ADA Washington Office staff members evacuated 11th and 12th floor offices. The rest of the D.C. building is occupied by tenants with other organizations and businesses.

Elevators continued to operate but some employees used the stairwell.

“I thought something was coming down,” said Pamela Fryer, ADA Washington Office project assistant. Other employees described shaking silverware and thinking that “this feels like an earthquake” without fully realizing it was indeed a rare east coast ‘quake. One employee returning from lunch stood at the entrance feeling nothing but sensing “a rumble, a low growl” at ground level.

“The desk was shaking and it felt like it was swaying,” said Allison Greenwald, senior project assistant for ADPAC political affairs. “At first I thought there was something wrong with me.”

As of 1:59 p.m. EDT all Metro trains were operating at 15 miles per hour as Metro personnel conducted track inspections of the entire rail system. At least one other transportation service was “suspended until further notice.”