Virginia 5.8 quake shutters reactors, disrupts cell phone service

Tremors prompt building evacuations in multiple east coast cities

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered in central Virginia disrupted cell phone service and closed two nuclear reactors, numerous bridges and tunnels in East Coast cities on Tuesday afternoon.

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint reported no cell network damage from the quake, but the carriers said said call volumes were very heavy.

Many Washington-based Twitter users said they lost cell phone service after the quake struck. The companies suggested that customers turn to texting if their voice calls don't get through.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck in Mineral, Va., about 80 miles southwest of Washington, at 1:51 p.m. It immediately lit up social networking sites as users shared stories about the quake.

The USGS said that the Tuesday quake was the largest in Virginia since a magnitude 5.9 hit Giles County in 1897.

Two nuclear reactors were taken offline at the North Anna facility near Mineral, but no damage was reported, according to WTOP radio in Washington. Officials at the plant, run by Dominion Virginia Power, could not be reached for comment.

CNN also reported that pinnacles fell off the National Cathedral in Washington, but no tourists or other people were injured.

A Computerworld reporter based in Harrisonburg, Va., 60 miles from the epicenter, said the quake felt like a truck or school bus had hit his townhouse building, while a Computerworld editor based in the Washington suburbs of Maryland said he felt his desk shake.

Airport control towers at John F. Kennedy Airport and Newark, N.J. were evacuated along with many government and office buildings in Washington, based on reports from CNN and other sources.

The NYNEX building in New York City was also evacuated, CNBC reported.

A security camera in Parkville, Md., captured the quake and the video was posted on YouTube.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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