SAN DIEGO - The 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, VA, Tuesday rattled people across the East Coast both mentally and physically.
The quake could be felt from Charleston, SC, to Martha’s Vineyard with an estimated 12 million people living close enough to feel it.
New York’s JFK Airport and Newark Airport were evacuated. Flights were grounded at Dulles and in Philadelphia. The Pentagon, White House and U.S. capital were also evacuated.
Facebook and Twitter lit up immediately following the quake with frightened comments from East Coasters.
It prompted some on the West Coast to wonder, is this how we act when we feel an earthquake?
Lisa Dabrow works at a news station in Rhode Island but is originally from the Southern California.
“When different earthquakes would happen in San Diego the phone wouldn't ring off the hook and here we barely felt it,” she said. “It was barely a tremor, barely a flutter and the phones are flying off the hook.”
San Diego geologist Pat Abbott said quakes are felt more intensely on the East Coast because the rocks there are older and denser.
“The rocks here are younger more fractured and earthquake energy dies down more rapidly,” he said. “We go to the East Coast where a lot of those rocks are hundreds of millions of years old and billions of years old they are very, very hard and they transmit the energy very well.”
According to Abbott, an identical earthquake hit in Whittier, CA in 1987 but it wasn’t felt as widely because of younger, weaker rocks that absorb energy. He said the bottom line is that people on the East Coast simply aren't used to quakes.
"An earthquake is unsettling to anybody but if it only occurs once in your lifetime, that's got to be all the more unsettling,” Abbott said. “So it's no wonder people there are reacting.”