A day after the East Coast's strongest earthquake in 67 years, inspections of many structures, including schools, offices, national landmarks, bridges and nuclear plants, were being swiftly carried out Wednesday. An accurate damage estimate could take weeks. The U.S. Geological Survey classified the 5.8 magnitude quake, felt from Georgia north to Canada, as Alert Level Orange, the second-most serious category on its four-level scale. Earthquakes in that range lead to estimated losses between $100 million and $1 billion.
Nuclear plants are okay
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said no major damage was found at the 12 nuclear power plant sites that got inspections but were not shut down after Tuesday's earthquake. An "unusual event" status was canceled at the sites in an area that spans from North Carolina to Michigan. Twin reactors at the North Anna facility near the Virginia epicenter lost outside electric power for cooling and were shut down, but power was restored late Tuesday. A safety alert for the plant ended around midday Wednesday.
At the 555-foot Washington Monument, crews found several cracks in the side of the monument's pyramidium — the section at the top of the obelisk where it begins narrowing to a point. The damage was discovered during a visual inspection by helicopter. It cannot be seen from the ground. The monument, by far the tallest structure in the nation's capital, was to remain closed indefinitely. It has never been damaged by a natural disaster, including earthquakes in Virginia in 1897 and New York in 1944.
Ceremony to relocate
Damage to the landmark National Cathedral is forcing officials to seek a new site to hold dedication services for the memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. The service was to be held at the cathedral on Saturday, but the building will remain closed as a precaution. Three of the four spires on the central tower broke off and there are major cracks in the flying buttresses at the cathedral's east end. The building's overall structure is said to be sound.
The Insurance Information Institute said earthquakes are not covered under standard U.S. homeowners or business insurance policies, although supplemental coverage is usually available. The institute says coverage for other damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage from burst gas or water pipes, is provided by standard homeowners and business insurance policies in most states. Cars and other vehicles with comprehensive insurance would also be protected.