The state Capitol building was evacuated Tuesday afternoon when an aftershock of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Virginia briefly jostled Hartford.
Just before 2 p.m. the building’s fire alarm sounded, confusing some with reports of a fire. But Capitol police Sgt. John Sylvester said the evacuation was just a precautionary measure taken after they received reports of the building shaking. The building was reopened about 20 minutes later.
The U.S. Geological Service estimated the quake in Connecticut at 2.7 on the intensity scale, which is not the same as the Richter magnitude scale. A 2.7 translates to weak shaking with no damage expected. The tremors originated in Mineral Virginia, about 85 miles southwest of Washington D.C., according to the USGS.
Connecticut Radio Network news director and Capitol press corps dean Steve Kotchko said reporters felt the quake in the fourth floor press room where the water in the water cooler shifted back and forth.
Senate Dems staffer Sarah Hamby was also on the fourth floor when it happened. She was getting ready for a meeting when, “everything in the Capitol just started swaying a little.”
Hamby took to Facebook and posted, “I hope everyone just felt that…”
But not everyone did. Standing outside the building, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said she didn’t feel it at all.
“I was too busy doing work I guess,” she said.
So were Sen. Martin Looney, D- New Haven, and Andrew McDonald, the governor’s chief legal counsel. Looney said he was on the phone when it happened and didn’t realize anything was going on until he saw people bolting for the door.
“People have been saying for years I have no feeling but no, I didn’t feel it,” McDonald joked.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was not at the Capitol at the time of the quake released a statement reassuring Connecticut residents.
“The movement people in Connecticut felt was associated with the earthquake which originated in Virginia. Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection staff is at the Emergency Operations Center as a precaution, but at this point, there have been no reports of injury or damage,” he said.
During a conference call with reporters, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Deputy Commissioner Peter Boynton said the quake has caused little damage in Connecticut and no reported injuries. The Department of Transportation has dispatched inspectors to check up on bridges and other infrastructure, he said. Waterford’s Milstone power station reported no damage and is operating normally, Boynton said.
Connecticut Light and Power reported 391 power outages statewide while the United Illumination Company reported only one. Boynton said the number of outages are fairly typical and may not be quake-related. A moderate thunderstorm typically causes more outages, he said.
Bradley International Airport continued to operate normally after the earthquake, though eight flights were diverted there from New York airports, where the quake was also felt, he said.
The Capitol building was not the only state facility in Hartford to be evacuated due to the shaking, Boynton said. A state building at 25 Sigourney Street, where the DESPP is headquartered was also cleared, he said. There, people found broken windows on an upper floor and damage in the garage, he said. Boynton was there at the time of the quake.
“I could feel my chair moving as I was sitting in it,” he said.