Central Virginia still rattled 10 years after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck

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LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Ten years ago, millions of people felt a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled much of the East Coast including much of Virginia.

The quake occurred at 1:51 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2011. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the shaking was felt up to 600 miles away from the epicenter near Mineral, Va. USGS received nearly 150,000 reports of shaking as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida.

The earthquake did not cause any deaths or major injuries, but it did cause about $80 million in damage to homes, schools, and public buildings in Louisa County, Va. The Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution Building, and Washington National Cathedral also sustained damage. Overall, the total damage from the earthquake was estimated between $200-$300 million.

The Eastern U.S. is not immune to earthquakes. According to USGS, there have been about 400 earthquakes of magnitude 3.5 or greater. Most recently, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in Sparta, NC on Aug. 9, 2020.

The 2011 earthquake was the largest quake to have occurred in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone (CVSZ), which has a history of occasional earthquakes. This particular zone includes parts of the southeastern Richmond Metro Area, Albemarle County, and Stafford County. Overall, CVSZ is home to more than 1 million people.  

The terrain of the Eastern U.S. allows for earthquake seismic waves to be felt over greater areas due to older rocks that are harder and denser, and faults on those areas have had more time to heal. Therefore seismic waves can cross over these areas more efficiently when an earthquake occurs.

About 4,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the earthquake occurred and aftershocks still continue today, according to USGS.

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