Earthquake tremors felt across the East End

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08/23/2011 2:03 PM |

At first, people weren’t really sure it was happening.

“My pendant lamp as well as my keys in the door were swaying,” said Carol Gorman of Riverhead. “Then I knew I wasn’t crazy!
Ms. Gorman wasn’t going mad. What she and other people across the North Fork felt Tuesday afternoon were tremors from an earthquake centered in Virginia that hit a few minutes before 2 p.m. Aside from some disconcerting shaking, the region escaped unscathed.

Officials reported no injuries or significant damage.

The quake, with a magnitude of 5.8, was the strongest to hit the East Coast in 67 years and lasted from 10 to 15 seconds. The epicenter was 38 miles from Richmond, Va., and 84 miles from Washington, D.C., where parts of the White House, Capitol and Pentagon were evacuated. It apparently left a crack in the Washington Monument.

The quake was felt by an estimated 12 million people from Canada to Martha’s Vineyard to Charleston, S.C.

In the hours immediately after, the Suffolk County Police Department issued a call for residents to remain calm.

No Riverhead Town buildings were evacuated, though they were inspected by engineers for structural damage.

“Everybody just felt tremors,” said Tara McLaughlin, Supervisor Sean Walter’s chief of staff. “Some people stepped outside. Some didn’t even feel it.”

This is not the first time the North Fork has rumbled from an earthquake elsewhere. In the early 1980s the region was shaken by an earthquake centered under Long Island Sound 10 miles north of Greenport. That quake, which some who experienced it said was a bit more intense than Tuesday’s event, also caused no damage.

Last November an earthquake 79 miles south-southeast of Southampton, registering a magnitude of 3.9, made its presence known here.

Meanwhile, Mr. Walter, town police chief David Hegermiller, department heads and school and fire department officials met Wednesday to discuss an emergency preparedness plan for Hurricane Irene.

That storm, which passed through the Caribbean earlier this week as a Category 3 with sustained winds of 115 mph, could reach the Mid-Atlantic coast this weekend. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range projections put Long Island in the center of the area of potential landfall locations.

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Additional reporting by Vera Chinese