Tonya Hull Sacco thought her roof was being ripped off.
The Winchester native who moved in 1995 to Kenvil, N.J., about 30 miles from New York City, felt the earthquake that rumbled across the east coast Tuesday afternoon and reportedly into areas of Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and even Canada.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake occurred at 1:51 p.m. and had a magnitude of 5.8. It lasted up to 45 seconds. The epicenter was in Mineral, Va., about 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Reports of people being evacuated from office buildings there and in New York in anticipation of possible aftershocks flooded news stations.
Sacco said what she thought was her roof ripping off ended up being things falling in the shower, and it was really noisy.
“Things just started moving,” she said. “We have a grandfather clock here in our living room, and it isn’t working, but I heard it chime for the first time. It was quite exciting.”
She said she was afraid to go outside afterwards, and even for a few minutes after the quake one of her wall lamps was still swaying. She said it felt like someone was pushing the computer table at which she sat towards her.
“I can only imagine what it felt like in Virginia,” she said.
The quake was felt so widely across the nation because it was a shallow one, and geologic conditions on the east coast “allow the effects of earthquakes to propagate and spread much more efficiently than in the western United States,” according to the Geological Survey.
When Sacco finally did go outside, all her neighbors were running around saying, “Did you feel that? That was an earthquake.”
Sacco works as a flight attendant at the Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the airports that shut down right after the earthquake for safety precautions. She said she hadn’t talked to anyone she works with, but she saw a couple posts on Facebook from people saying their phones were not working because of the communication overload.
Sacco said she has a lot of family still here, including her mother, two sisters, two brothers, an uncle and an aunt. She said she called her mom after it happened and contacted her siblings to let them know she was OK.
Scenes in New York City and D.C. were chaotic Tuesday as the underground subway systems, one of the main forms of transportation in those areas, were closed right after the quake occurred. The Metrorail in D.C. resumed operations later in the afternoon but at much slower speeds than usual.
This morning, it was reported that the Washington Monument had sustained cracks during the quake, and the Washington National Cathedral did as well, also losing capstones from three spires.
There have been no reports of injuries or serious damage.
Several other Winchester natives posted on the Sun’s Facebook page saying they had experienced the earthquake, including people living in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Carl Williams moved from Winchester in 2002 and now lives in Roanoke, Va. His daughter, her husband and his granddaughter still live here.
Williams, who was in the basement of his house when the quake happened, said it “wasn’t terrible” in Roanoke. He said it reminded him of one that Winchester felt around the late 1970s, and it sounded like “a bunch of people running around upstairs.”
The inside walls of his basement shook a little, he said.
“It was just eerie. That’s how I would explain it,” Sacco said. “And it seemed to last longer than a few seconds. They say it’s 10 or 15 seconds ... but it just seemed to last so much longer.”
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.