he U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was a half a mile deep and struck near Mineral, Va., a city in central Virginia about 83 miles from Washington, D.C. The area is known for its seismic activity, but does not generally produce large earthquakes.
Most of downtown D.C. has since been evacuated, including the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and other buildings. Pictures in the Capitol building reportedly fell from the wall and workers panicked and ran to the exits, apparently fearing a 9/11-style attack. Marine helicopters were seen hovering above the D.C.
There is reportedly concern that the Washington Monument is tilting.
Buildings in New York City shook briefly and the FBI building was evacuated. Control towers at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Airport were also evacuated. Evacuations were felt as north as Canada.
The press corp with President Obama in Martha's Vineyard said they felt slight shaking. Attorney General Eric Holder has been evacuated from the Department of Justice.
Federal officials say two nuclear reactors were taken offline near quake site in Virginia; there was no damage reported.
The East Coast gets earthquakes, but usually smaller ones and is less prepared than California or Alaska for shaking.
At Reagan National Airport outside Washington, ceiling tiles fell during a few seconds of shaking. Authorities announced it was an earthquake and all flights were put on hold.
The largest earthquake from the area in the past few years have been in the magnitude 4 range.
U.S. weather service says no tsunami expected after East Coast quake centered in Va.