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Virginia earthquake prompts evacuations
MINERAL, Va. (8/24/11)--Early reports have credit unions, like most other businesses along the East Coast, largely unscathed by Tuesday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Richmond, Va., even though the event produced tremors felt as far away as Toronto, Cuba, and Missouri. The tremors shook buildings in Washington, D.C. and New York City, causing numerous building evacuations and early closing of federal government offices. Credit unions in the area had not reported damage by press time. "We are not aware of any damages to credit unions at this point, but our property and casualty claims staff is in the process of contacting policyholder credit unions in the area," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager for CUNA Mutual Group. The credit unions closest to the earthquake's epicenter are in Charlottesville, which has five credit unions, and Richmond, which has about 26 credit unions. Richmond is 41 miles southeast of the epicenter in Mineral, a small farming and bedroom community in rural Louisa County. It has a population of 430 (Bloomberg.com Aug. 23). Virginia CU, which is headquartered in Richmond and has branches throughout the state, said it had no damages to report. "It was quite an experience," said Jean Hulman, senior vice president of marketing. "But I'm not aware of any issues, nor any reports of damages, and as far as I know communications are working at our branches," she told News Now. Hulman described the earthquake, which hit at 1:51 p.m. ET, as a lot of "rattling, shaking, noise and rumbling. We weren't sure what it was. We did evacuate, but not for very long," she said. She noted the entire office park where the credit union is based was evacuated. Hulman had not heard of other credit unions with damage and said local media were reporting "minimal" damages in the Richmond area. No state-chartered credit unions had reported closing as of 3 p.m., according to Werner Paul, deputy commissioner of Virginia Bureau of Financial Institutions, Richmond. The earthquake could be felt for about one minute in the bureau's Richmond offices, but the bureau did not evacuate, he told News Now. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond was open and operating, and its employees did not evacuate, a spokesperson told Bloomberg.com (Aug. 23). As of press time, News Now was unable to reach the Virginia Credit Union League, which is located in Lynchburg, or the National Credit Union Administration in Arlington, Va. Several credit unions contacted had staff out of the office, but it was not clear whether that was related to the earthquake or any evacuation. The epicenter was 83 miles south of Washington, D.C. (MarketWatch Aug. 23). Federal government buildings such as the White House, Capitol and the Pentagon were at least partly evacuated when they shook for about a minute. Many at the Credit Union National Association's headquarters in Washington evacuated the building during the quake, but staff were soon allowed back inside. The federal government dismissed all the Washington metropolitan offices early and said the operating status for today would be posted by 4 a.m. News reports said that cell phone service was knocked out in New York City and that a nuclear power plant momentarily lost power but was operating normally. Computerworld reported that traffic on Twitter and Facebook "lit up with the news" on Tuesday afternoon. "People were quick to turn to their favorite social networking sites to report the quake, with many tweeting or posting while the shaking was still going on," the publication said. It noted that a reporter in Maine learned of the quake on Twitter before feeling the shock waves that reached that state. The earthquake, which originally was reported as a 5.9 magnitude before being reduced to 5.8, is the largest to hit Virginia since 1897, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (Bloomberg.com Aug. 23).
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