Aug. 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Capitol Evacuated After Earthquake

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Workers pour onto First Street Northeast after buildings were evacuated following Tuesday’s earthquake.

Updated: 11:15 p.m.

The Capitol and other government buildings were evacuated Tuesday afternoon in the wake of an earthquake.

The 5.8-magnitude quake struck at 1:51 p.m. It was centered northwest of Richmond, Va., but its effects were felt around the nation's capital, as well as in New York City and North Carolina.

Crowds flooded out of the Capitol, the Capitol Visitor Center and the House and Senate office buildings. Groups stood on First Street Northeast until Capitol Police ushered them away.

All buildings in the Capitol complex were closed Tuesday afternoon while the Capitol Police and engineers from the Architect of the Capitol checked for structural damage. No serious injuries were reported to the police.

Structural engineers worked through the afternoon and evening, and the Capitol Police sent out notices as they cleared the buildings one by one for limited re-entry. People with offices inside the cleared buildings were allowed to retrieve personal items and secure work areas, but police asked that they minimize their time inside while inspections continued in the complex. Click here for a list of reopened buildings.

Capitol Police indicated that Wednesday was expected to be a normal business day.

For those looking for transportation options from Capitol Hill, police told drivers they could retrieve cars parked on the streets or in outdoor lots in the Capitol complex. Parking garages in the complex were initially off limits, but inspectors were working their way through the structures and clearing them through the afternoon and evening. Click here for a list of reopened garages.

Union Station was closed and MARC, Amtrak and VRE services were suspended after the quake, but the building reopened and operations resumed after a few hours. All Metro stations were open as of 4 p.m. and trains were operating under a speed restriction of 15 mph, which was expected to remain in place for several hours, according to Metro. The restriction was expected to create significant delays for commuters. All Metrobus routes were also running, although traffic signal outages and road congestion were also creating delays.

The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer announced that all staff would be excused for the rest of the day, with the CAO opening Wednesday on its normal schedule.

About 100 “essential” employees of the Government Printing Office returned to their building after it was deemed safe Tuesday to produce the Congressional Record, Senate Calendar and Federal Register, according to spokesman Gary Somerset.

Washington National Cathedral in northwest Washington was damaged, with three pinnacles breaking off from the central tower, Reuters reported. A crack was discovered near the top of the Washington Monument after the earthquake, and a National Park Service spokesman told the Associated Press that the monument will be closed indefinitely while engineers study the damage.

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