By and and  on August 23, 2011

The D.C. area was hit by an earthquake of a 5.9 magnitude at 1:51 p.m. Tuesday and parts of downtown Washington were evacuated, but no major injuries or damage to stores or malls was reported.

A 2.8 magnitude aftershock hit the area near the epicenter about an hour later, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A second followed about 20 minutes later, this time of a 2.2 magnitude. More aftershocks were expected.

The USGS said that the epicenter of the earthquake was near Mineral, Va., about 87 miles southwest of Washington. The initial preliminary report was a magnitude of 5.8, but that was later upgraded to 5.9.

U.S. Capital buildings were evacuated. There have been no reports of injuries or damage. Phone service in the D.C. area, however, was intermittent throughout the afternoon. In addition, the National Park Service as a precaution temporarily closed the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial while it inspected the structures to ensure that they remain sound before reopening to visitors.

A spokesman for Macy’s Inc. said the flagship in the downtown D.C. area was briefly evacuated, but that the store later reopened.

At Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va., owned and operated by The Macerich Co., 50 percent of the 300 retailers closed after the earthquake, according to Elizabeth Natwick, senior marketing manager.

Retailers and customers were evacuated during the earthquake.

“We’ve given direction to our retailers to check with their corporate offices to follow their instructions on what they would like them to do in regards to closing for the entire day,” Natwick said. “Fifty percent of our stores are open right now and we are monitoring as best we can.”

Of the center’s four anchors — Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s — only Lord & Taylor remained open after the earthquake, according to Natwick.

There was no “severe structural damage” to the center although minor damage, such as fallen tiles, was apparent, she said.

Natwick noted center officials will continue to assess the damage and notify retailers if substantial damage is found before the mall opens today.

Joe Frye, general manager of Stony Point Fashion Park in Richmond, which features such stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton and Brooks Brothers, remained open after the earthquake, which he estimated was centered about 70 miles from Richmond.

Frye said there were no evacuations at the center, which is an outdoor fashion destination.

“We were a little surprised that it happened in this part of the country,” Frye said. “You don’t anticipate this on the East Coast, but we have not heard of any other businesses in the region being damaged at all. There was no structural damage to our [fashion center] and we did not have a noticeable change in our foot traffic.”

It appeared to be business as usual as well in Georgetown, home to several clothing boutiques, said Meredith Sandacz, manager of Relish, an upscale contemporary specialty boutique located there.

“We felt it for sure,” she said. “It was rattling windows and a pair of Balenciaga heels fell off the shelf but that was it.

“People are still out and about and, for the most part, stores are open,” Sandacz said. “I don’t think it will affect our sales. It will be a conversation piece more than anything.”

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, owned by Simon Property Group Inc., which is across the river from Washington in Arlington, Va., also remained open after the earthquake, although it could not be learned whether any stores closed.

The quake was felt as far away as North Carolina and New York, with many in Manhattan feeling office buildings shake. Parts of Philadelphia reportedly also felt the quake.

A spokesman for Simon Property Group Inc. said none of its shopping centers had been affected, while a spokeswoman for Taubman Centers Inc. noted, “It was felt at our Virginia centers, but there was no interruption in business.”

In Manhattan, trading at the New York Stock Exchange and at the Nasdaq Markets continued, but employees at Goldman Sachs near Ground Zero and at UBS at its Midtown offices were evacuated.

In New York City, a spokeswoman for Coach Inc., which has its headquarters on 34th Street near Ninth Avenue, said the office felt some “slight vibrations.”

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