Mineral, Va., Earthquake Epicenter Residents Shaken but Safe

Most Mineral, Va., businesses remain open hours after quake.

Aug. 23, 2011 — -- The tiny town of Mineral, Va., that was the epicenter of today's earthquake was shaken but not badly damaged, according to local residents and business owners who said the town was effectively back to normal by afternoon.

"Well, I have customers lined up right now to get haircuts," Rebecca Sparks, 29, owner of the Mineral Barber Shop, said about two hours after the earthquake. "It was big and it was scary and we had cleaning up to do, but we don't get scared off easily."

The owner of a bakery and pizza shop said his heavy pizza oven shifted along the floor during the shaking and there was some minor structural damage, but he was still open for business this afternoon.

"I was just sitting in my chair in the corner, and the girl making the pizzas got a little scared and dropped a pizza on the floor when the building shook, but we got pretty lucky," Sweet Creations owner John Harrell said. "It was surreal."

For some, however, the damage was more extensive, and the after effects of the 5.9-magnitutude quake will be felt for weeks to come.

"Everything is just gone," said Denise Strong, manager of Miller's Market, the town's main grocery store. "There's structural damage, everything's broken. We lost everything at the store."

Strong, 48, said she had never seen an earthquake like the one today that hit Mineral, a former mining town of 424 people in Louisa County, near Richmond. Shelves in her store toppled over onto customers in the aisles, she said, although no one was hurt. Glass bottles, including their entire stock of beer and wine, smashed on the floor of the store, she said.

"I thought a train had derailed," she said. "I ran out of the office because it's so close it would hit me if it derailed. I've seen a little tremble before, but this was rough. It scared everybody."

Shirley K. Brown, 70, a retired accountant, lives on Lake Anna, outside of Mineral.

"Oh, we felt it. I'm only five miles from Mineral, and I live right on the lake," Brown said. "Things fell off the wall, and the whole house shook."

"The back of my house faces the lake and sits up pretty high and the side that faces the road is leveled," said Brown.

The Mineral Post Office was evacuated, she said, and emergency vehicles were crowded around the building nearly two hours after the earthquake hit. A U.S. Postal Service employee working at the Mineral officer declined to comment, but confirmed that she was outside the building around 4 p.m.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said no structural problems were reported on roadways around Mineral, although crews were out checking roads and the many small bridges throughout Louisa County to ensure structural safety, according to spokeswoman Stacy Londrey.

The Virginia Natural Gas company was also doing structural checks to its gas lines, which spokesman Duane Bourne said could be vulnerable to shifts in the earth, but no problems have been reported.