Updated Aug. 23, 2011, 4:28 p.m.
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked D.C. at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, prompting University officials to check campus buildings for potential damages from the tremors.
Officials are “assessing the situation,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. Mineral, Va. – the location of the quake’s center – is about 87 miles southwest of D.C. The rattling shattered potted plants at Gelman Library while bookshelves collapsed, shutting down the library for the rest of the day.
Gelman Library shut down for the day starting at 4 p.m., University Librarian Jack Siggins said. The building was temporarily evacuated around 2 p.m. and reopened almost an hour later.
“We got no information from the Office of Emergency Management as to what we should do in the library. All we got was something on their website, which everybody got,” Siggins said. “Their was no indication, in response to my questions, as to what we should do, except for one [University] police officer came over and told us to leave the building.”
A Global Resources Center employee and a patron sitting at a nearby computer were the first to hear a crash when a shelf holding statistical books from Asia gave way. Both the patron, who hid under the desk when he heard the crash, and the employee left shortly after the quake.
Cathy M. Zeljak, director of the center, said the bookshelf held references from China, Japan and Korea. Upon initial assessment of the tumbled texts, she said the damage wasn’t “anything that can’t be repaired.”
Siggins added that he sent a message to OEM to clear the fallen shelf.
University employees are not required to work for the rest of the day but can return to their buildings collect their personal belongings, the University said in an infomail. All events on the University’s calendars for the rest of the day are canceled.
GW will operate on a normal schedule Wednesday, according to a University statement. The statement also said no injuries were reported and damages are only minor.
The Vern Express is still running shuttles between the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, but passengers can expect a slower commute, according to Campus Advisories. Cell phone and Internet connections are also clogged.
Director of the U.S. Geological Survey Marcia McNutt told The Washington Post the shaking could have been a foreshock and that an aftershock would be more severe. The National Park Service has also evacuated and shut down all monuments and memorials since the earthquake hit, according to The Post.
Metro Riders can also expect delays because trains will run at a slower speed, the transit agency said in a news release, while inspectors check rails.
Hatchet reporters Andrea Vittorio and Katherine Rodriguez contributed to this report.