5.9 earthquake rocks, Virginia, D.C.

Strongest Virginia quake since 1879 damages apartment water lines here

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, as people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley braced for possible inland rains and wind from Hurricane Irene’s projected path north up the Eastern Seaboard they got an unexpected jolt.

At 1:51 PM as this reporter was having lunch with a friend at Elements on South Royal Avenue the building was shaken by what was reported to be a 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered 4 miles from both Louisa and Mineral, Virginia. A quick map check of the USGS website indicated the epicenter triangulated by Charlottesville to the west, Fredericksburg and Richmond to the northeast and southeast, respectively.

According to the USGS the earthquake was centered at 38N latitude and 78W longitude in an area known as the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. Weaker earthquakes in the 4.0 range to 5.0 range are reported as typical of this zone.

ABC TV 7 in DC reported the quake to be the strongest one in Virginia since 1879.

The USGS reports that 4.0 quakes can typically be felt 60 miles away and 5.0 quake as far away as 300 miles, with damage typical as far as 25 miles from the epicenter of a 5.0 quake.

The Associated Press reported that two nuclear reactors operated by Dominion Power in Louisa County near Lake Anna within 25 miles of Mineral were undamaged. Those reactors were automatically shut down near the time of the quake. Four emergency diesel generators were operating key safety systems at the nuclear plants, according to AP.

The quake rolled through Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and into the Northern Shenandoah Valley. One co-patron at our Tuesday afternoon lunch stop, Edward Jones broker George Karnes, estimated what he felt as a 2.0 to 2.5 tremor. We were unable to verify or dispute Karnes’ guess at the strength of the quake as it reached Front Royal.

Local damage

Property Manager Teresa Cherry of the Shenandoah Commons Apartment Complex off Westminster Drive told us initial reports indicated damage, primarily to water lines, in nine of 10 buildings in the complex. Some residents allowed to return to their apartments were advised not to use their stoves that evening. However following an inspection of all units it appeared only five residents and two pets were in need of temporary accommodations to facilitate repairs.

On the scene at Shenandoah Commons at 5 PM, County Fire and Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano said it seemed the county would not have to open an emergency shelter at one of the public high schools due to the small number of displaced residents. Local Red Cross has traditionally been able to utilize local motels for families displaced by residential fires in the county.

DC area damage

Some 70 miles to our east, where nerves are usually a bit more taught due to the national political machinations for control or destruction of the federal governmental apparatus, the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings were evacuated due to the rolling tremor. DC-area TV reports showed large numbers of people milling about outside buildings in downtown Washington, including headquarters of the Washington Post.

Despite the evacuation of their building, the Post reported the quake was felt as far north as Boston, as far south as Anderson, South Carolina, and northwest to Columbus, Ohio.

The Virginia Department of Transportation initially reported no known damage to bridges or roadways. However damage reports began rolling in as the afternoon progressed.

A spire was reported to have collapsed at National Cathedral in DC, closing that building to the public. News 7 DC also reported that a building on the 6100 block of Oxon Hill Road in Prince Georges County, Maryland had collapsed. No initial details on the type or age of that building were available.

Our initial experience of the earthquake was at our downtown lunch stop. Several customers quickly recognized the source of the vibrations and rattling silverware as an earthquake. When several Elements customers countered they believed a nearby train was the culprit, another asked, “WHAT train?”

Elements owner David Gedney, who rushed outside to check his building exterior, returned quickly to report that his damage was limited to five broken plates upstairs in his Apartment 2G dinner restaurant.

Rockland report

As the quake rolled through Rockland our northside correspondent Malcolm Barr Sr. and his wife Carol were in their kitchen. Barr, a self-acclaimed veteran of many earthquakes while working in Hawaii, strolled to his front door to see “what piece of heavy equipment neighbor Thomas McGeath was driving by on Rockland Road.” Meanwhile, Barr reported his wife was talking “Armageddon” and their future daughter-in-law in Tennessee called to see if everyone was okay.

Echoing initial reactions by some of our fellow Elements lunchtime patrons, Barr observed, “Sounded like a train rumbling by.”

While used to such occurrences during his stints in Hawaii, Barr added, “I guess since we don’t have many earthquakes around here, I couldn’t quite believe my wife when she said we were in the middle of one. Those in Hilo (Hawaii) regularly bounced things off the walls; then one of the volcanoes would treat us to another ‘fireworks’ display.”

This report will be updated as information becomes available.


Residents of 25 Shenandoah Commons Way await verdict on whether they will be able to sleep at home following earthquake damage to water lines in their building.

Residents of 25 Shenandoah Commons Way await verdict on whether they will be able to sleep at home following earthquake damage to water lines in their building.

WC Fire & Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano speaks with Shenandoah Commons residents.

WC Fire & Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano speaks with Shenandoah Commons residents.

TV 7 DC shows photo of North Anna Nuclear Power Plant after emergency diesel generators kicked in following automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactors after earthquake.

TV 7 DC shows photo of North Anna Nuclear Power Plant after emergency diesel generators kicked in following automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactors after earthquake.

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm  Comments (3)  

String of robberies continues – 7/11 hit Aug. 19

At approximately 4:30a.m. on August 19, Front Royal Police responded to a report of an armed robbery at the 7-Eleven store near the intersection of W. 14th Street and N. Shenandoah Ave. Upon arrival, officers learned that a white male had entered the store, presented a handgun and demanded all the money from the register. The clerk on duty complied and the suspect promptly fled the scene on foot. The clerk was not injured in the incident.


The white male is described as wearing dark colored blue-jeans, a black long-sleeved shirt, sun-glasses and his face was partially covered by a bandanna. He is further described as being 5’-10” to 6’-0” in height, 165-185 lbs with a thin build and tightly cropped hair similar to being closely shaved.


A K-9 officer was called to the scene to determine a potential track of the suspect. The track was successful; however, it stopped at a nearby location. It is unknown at this time if the suspect may have left from that location in a vehicle.


No further details are available at this time. This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Jason Lethcoe with the Criminal Investigations Division at 540-635-2208. A cash reward is being offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the suspect.

(From a release)

Published in: on August 22, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Late August, 2011 edition of Warren County Report

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Published in: on August 19, 2011 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Riverton Commons Wal-mart bank robbed

Suspect in security film from Wal-mart’s Woodforest National Bank

Broad daylight robbery did little to slow afternoon shopping

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Authorities are looking for a suspect in an early afternoon robbery of the Woodforest National Bank inside the Riverton Commons Wal-mart on Friday, Aug. 12.

Security camera photos released by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office show a black male, described as 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds. The suspect was wearing black T-shirt and khaki shorts and khaki ball cap when he approached a teller at 12:50 PM and passed a note demanding money.

After receiving an amount of money not being specified by authorities at this time, the suspect exited the store.

Authorities are seeking information on both the man pictured in the security film and a two-door, dark-colored car with a dark convertible top believed involved in the getaway.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Lieutenant Magalis or Sergeant Foster at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office 540-635-7100 or 540-635-4128.

(Info from a release)

Banking “that way” was probably not what the Riverton Commons Wal-mart in-store bank had in mind with its “Banking Your Way … Every Day and Night!” slogan.

Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputies staked out the Wal-mart parking lot immediately after Aug. 12 bank robbery. Suspect is believed to have fled in a dark, 2-door, dark top convertible.

Published in: on August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Burke gets town manager’s job permanently

The Front Royal Mayor and Town Council are pleased to announce that at the Town Council Meeting on August 8, 2011 they appointed Mr. Steven Burke as their new Town Manager. Over the past ten months, Steve has served as the Interim Town Manager and has done an excellent job.

Steve has over sixteen years of municipal government experience and has worked for the Town for the past nine years. During his tenure with the Town, he has served as the Town Engineer, the Director of Public Works and the Director of Environmental Services. He has also served as the Interim Director of Planning & Zoning. Through Steve’s multiple levels of experience, commitment and dedication to the Town he has worked to ensure and deliver cost effective quality services to the citizens of the Town.

Steve holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Florida. He is currently a registered Professional Engineer in both Virginia and Florida. Steve and his wife Cary currently live in Front Royal with their two children Madelynn and Andrew. The Mayor and Town Council look forward to working with Steve and the Town Staff to advance communication with our citizens and continue the high level of service our community expects.

(From a release)

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Town announces Aug. 11 Road Closure and Water Outage

The Town of Front Royal Department of Environmental Services will close W. 18th St from N Royal Ave to N Shenandoah Ave. on Thursday, August 11, from 9 AM to 2 PM for water and sewer line maintenance. Expect some travel delays in the area.


Due to the work water service will be off periodically throughout the day in the area of W. 18th St, Royal Ave, W. 17th St, and W. 19th St.


The water outage could cause some temporary discoloration of the drinking water; however the water is safe to drink. To clear the water, a cold tap should be turned on and allowed to run until it clears. The discolored water could create issue with laundry, so check the water flowing into washing machines for discoloration before running it for laundry.


Questions should be directed to the town Department of Environmental Services at 540-636-6338.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Early August, 2011 edition of Warren County Report

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You can also download the original PDF file.

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Press Version (94.6 MB)

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 4:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Town road work closes south Criser on Aug. 9

The Front Royal Department of Environmental Services will have a 100-foot section of the westbound lane of Criser Rd (by Joe’s Steakhouse) closed on Tuesday, August 9, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for water and sewer line maintenance. Please expect some delays and plan your travel accordingly and watch for flagmen directing traffic.


Due to the work, water will be off periodically throughout the day in the area of W. Criser Rd from Royal Ave to Parkview Dr. The water outage could cause some temporary discoloration of the drinking water; however the water is safe to drink. To clear the water, a cold tap should be turned on and allowed to run until it clears. The water should also be checked for discoloration before running it into the washing machine.


If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Environmental Services at 540-636-6338.

Published in: on August 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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