(credit: Montgomery Maxton Photography)


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A 5.9 magnitude centered northwest of Richmond, Va. shook most of the East Coast, including Philadelphia and New York City, Tuesday. The quake was felt as far north as Rhode Island.

Numerous buildings in center city Philadelphia, including Philadelphia City Hall, were evacuated as a precaution, and many people around the Delaware Valley reported feeling structures rattle and shake.

Workers near KYW Newsradio’s studios at 4th and Market Streets rushed outside. The same scene unfolded at 1555 Hamilton Street, the home of CBS 3 and CW Philly.

As the shaking began about 1:50 p.m., people say they at first considered the possible causes — maybe it was a subway train or large truck passing by.  But within seconds, they realized this was something else.

“The earth moved, our desks moved, the computers moved, we moved.  We got out,” said one woman gathered with hundreds of others on Market Street. She others people voiced concern about going back inside too quickly.

Both cell phone and land-line phone services were also impacted following the quake as those in the quake area swamped the infrastructure calling friends and family members.  Customers of AT&T remained without service for a short time after the earthquake.

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Phone calls and e-mails from around the Philadelphia region poured into CBS 3 and KYW Newsradio as those in the earthquake zone sought confirmation of what their bodies were telling them.

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Mayor Michael Nutter said there were no reports of injuries or major damage in Philadelphia as a result of the quake, but added that the city had received reports of broken windows and similar minor damage.

“At this time only minor building damage has been reported in Philadelphia. All major City of Philadelphia government buildings have been inspected and are re-opening with City employees returning to work,” city officials said in a statement released about two hours later.

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SEPTA’s Broad Street subway line was suspended south of Walnut-Locust after a crack was discovered in a part of the infrastructure, said Deputy mayor Rina Cutler. A SEPTA spokesman later said service was restored after it was determined that the crack was old and did not endanger the line or its passengers.

The mayor said that all city workers were instructed to return to work about an hour after the earthquake struck, and all city services resumed.  Mayor Nutter added that both the city’s 911 and 311 telephone services operated properly throughout the quake incident.

The Philadelphia Court System was shut down for the remainder of the day.

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Owners of private buildings in Philadelphia were being instructed to contract their own engineers to determine the integrity of their structures. They were told to contact the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections in the event of problems.

Elizabeth Hur reports…

The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered in Mineral, Va., 3.7 miles deep in the earth. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, NC. Click here to see the USGS report.

“Little quakes occur on the east coast all the time, but mostly they’re ones that you’re not going to feel unless you’re extremely close to the epi center and even that it’s probably just a little shake,” said Jonathan Nyquist, chairman of the department of earth and environmental sciences at Temple University. “Big ones like this occur probably every 40-50 years.”

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Philadelphia International Airport issued a temporary “ground stoppage” due to the earthquake, and SEPTA ordered a temporary 25 mph speed limit on all rail lines until on-foot visual inspections of tracks could be made. Delays of up to 60 minutes on all SEPTA rail lines were reported.

To check the status of your flight and other transit and travel information, click here.

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Where were you? Let us know in the comments below. If you have photos or video of damage, click here to share them with CBSPhilly.