CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- People across West Virginia felt their homes and offices shake Tuesday afternoon after an earthquake struck north of Richmond, Va., at 1:51 p.m.
The earthquake registered 5.8 on the Richter scale at its epicenter near Mineral, Va.
Quakes of that magnitude rarely strike the East, and the last comparable temblor to hit Virginia happened more than 100 years ago.
The Kanawha County Courthouse and other buildings in downtown Charleston were evacuated, as was the state Capitol.
The quake was felt all over the East Coast, as far north as New England and south to the Carolinas. The U.S. Capitol in Washington was also evacuated.
Huntington District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspectors were in the field Tuesday afternoon inspecting all lock and dam and reservoir projects within the district.
"As far as we can tell, there doesn't seem to be any damage," said corps spokesman Chuck Minsker.
After the quake, state Department of Environmental Protection inspectors were dispatched to inspect larger coal-slurry impoundments such as the Brushy Fork and Shumate impoundments in Raleigh County. Those inspections were expected to be completed by Tuesday night, said DEP spokesman Tom Aluise. All other impounding structures should be examined within 72 hours, Aluise said.
Tom Clarke, director of the DEP Division of Mining and Reclamation, said coal-waste impoundments are designed with a factor of safety built in, meant to allow them to withstand 1.2 times the largest event that might hit them.
"It's a pretty substantial design factor," Clarke said.
Clarke could not immediately say what size earthquake coal-waste impoundments in Southern West Virginia would be designed to withstand.
Brian Long, who runs DEP's non-coal dam section, said his office was notifying dam owners via email to check their dams for any earthquake damage. Long was considering having DEP engineers check dams in the eastern part of the state that were already listed as having problems.
Kanawha County Metro 911 answered more than 350 calls in 45 minutes immediately following the quake, but Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said there were no reports of damage, other than minor cracking in the plaster at the old courthouse.
Officials at Yeager Airport were doing a physical walkthrough of the runway and construction zone at the airport, and Carper said they were calling in an engineer to make sure there was no visible structural damage.
West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan said utility workers had checked the company's water lines after the earthquake and found no problems.
Carper said the county immediately ordered the Emergency Operations Center activated, and staff was on hand to answer the influx of calls.
Carper said numerous calls described shelves being knocked off the walls and cabinets falling over across, but no injuries.
"The downtown high rise office buildings shook significantly. The old courthouse was literally shaking," Carper said.
Jennifer Wintz was at work alone in her office on the fifth floor of the Capitol City Office Building on Quarrier Street, a bobblehead doll sitting on her desk.
"The next thing I feel was the office is kind of going sideways," she said. And her bobblehead doll was moving of its own accord.
"It started shaking its head pretty quickly," she said. "The next thing I know I hear a lot of people in the building rushing downstairs.
"...I checked Twitter to see what was going on, and Twitter updates were coming through as a flurry -- of an earthquake being felt in Virginia and being felt up the East Coast."
And that's when she got out of the building, she said, standing on the sidewalk minutes after she had evacuated. "I am a little freaked out. It's a little scary to think that something like this would happen here in Charleston, West Virginia."
It was naptime at the Fort Hill at James Mark Day Care Center on Quarrier Street when the shaking started, said director Nikki Charlton.