The quake was originally reported as a 5.9 but was later reduced.
The quake struck at 1:51 p.m. southeast of the center of Louisa, Va., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake’s epicenter was 83 miles from Washington D.C.
The quake lasted about 45 seconds and was felt as far north as Ottawa, Canada.
The USGS warned of aftershocks ”People should be expecting (them), especially over the next hour or two,” Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey seismologist said to CNN.
Earthquakes, especially significant ones, are extremely rare on the Eastern Seaboard. Because of this, few buildings in the area are prepared for an earthquake of this magnitude, posing a potential safety issue if aftershocks do occur.
Buildings in the Northeast, including in New York and New Haven, were evacuated, according to witnesses.
Others reported feeling the quake in Boston and in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Boston Globe posted online that reporters felt the tremors in their Dorchester office.
Workers at Tufts Medical Center felt the building shake, especially on the top floors.
There are no immediate reports of serious damage in Boston. There was a report of a building collapse on Devonshire Street Downtown, after someone called 911 to report a building leaning. But police later said the building manager reported that the building was “always” leaning like that. Officials are investigating.
There are also reports of damage to a building in Brookline.
The earthquake came only hours after a 5.3 magnitude earthquake rumbled Denver at 5:46 a.m. Tuesday. That quake was centered 9 miles west southwest of Trinidad, Co.
Two nuclear power plants in Virginia were taken offline as a precaution.
The Pentagon and Capital were evacuated in Washington. Reagan National Airport was closed for a short time and several flights were diverted. Amtrak also reported service disruptions between Washington and Baltimore because of the earthquake.
Inside the Capital Beltway, in Maryland, office workers felt vibrations above and below them, and saw light poles rock back and forth at least six inches.
Brittney McNamara, Fatima Shahzad and Savannah Rose in Boston, Claude Strayer in Forestville, Md., and Jessica d’Arbonne in Denver of the Blast Staff contributed to this report.