Pastor reports ‘everyone fine’ in Virginia community at epicenter of quake

Today’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered in Virginia rocked communities up and down the East Coast, but Father Michael Duffy,  pastor of St. Jude Church in Mineral, Va., told Catholic News Service a couple of hours later that “everyone is fine here. No one is  injured.”

Mineral is in Louisa County, Va., the quake’s epicenter.

Father Duffy said he felt the quake in the rectory, while he had been meeting with an insurance  adjuster about another matter. “The whole house shook,” he said.

He said there appeared to be no structural damage, but “a lot  of messy damage” at the church and rectory. He said that the area’s older  mission church, Immaculate Conception in Bumpass, Va., also appeared to be fine. It was built in 1876.

At St. Jude, holy pictures fell off the walls and smashed and holy oils fell out of the ambry, the priest  said. He said also said there were cracks in the plaster, a broken water pipe and some damaged light fixtures.

Father Duffy said he was surprised when  someone told him later that the town of Mineral was the epicenter of the quake.

“Why are we having earthquakes here,” he said he asked himself. “Nothing happens in Mineral, Virginia. No one even knows we exist here…. Now they’ll know.”

The pastor said some parishioners called  after the quake to find out if he was OK. He said no one called to report any  injuries. He did say that he was concerned about nearby nuclear power plant  especially after this year’s devastating earthquake in Japan.

“Both our churches are near a nuclear power  plant and many parishioners work there. This is a big concern.” He did say he found out that the reactors at the plant were taken offline.

There are two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station, located near the
epicenter, and a press release from the office of Gov. Bob McDonnell confirmed that the reactors were “automatically taken offline by safety systems.” The governor’s office also said that in Louisa,”the middle school and high school suffered damage. Crews were checking bridges and government buildings statewide.”

Elsewhere in the region, safety inspections were taking place to evaluate any damage to buildings, roads and infrastructure. A major concern was potential damage to gas lines in homes and workplaces, with civil authorities urging people to check their status, and that if they had any doubt about their condition to evacuate immediately and call emergency responders.

As the region tried to get back to normal after the first major earthquake to hit Virginia in a hundred years, transportation around the District of Columbia and to most of the suburbs remained difficult for some time with highways clogged, subway trains slower than usual and some traffic lights on city streets out of commission.

About Nancy Wiechec

Visual Media Manager, Catholic News Service
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