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Earthquake Causes Evacuation At New Haven Open

Earthquake New Haven Open

PAT EATON-ROBB   08/23/11 09:15 PM ET   AP

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The earthquake that originated in Virginia shook the tennis stadium on the Yale campus Tuesday, sending fans bolting to the aisles and delaying play for more than two hours at the New Haven Open.

The earthquake swayed the stands during the third game of a match between Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Elena Vesnina of Russia.

"I never had experienced that before," Vesnina said. "It was so weird. On the court, we didn't feel anything, but I saw the upper level, and it was shaking. I said, 'Oh, my God, what is going to happen?' I was really scared."

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.

After evacuating more than 4,000 people from the stadium, New Haven's fire marshal and building inspector checked for damage and declared the stadium structurally sound.

Play resumed at 4:15 p.m. when chair umpire Sandie French said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the resumption of play of a match suspended because of an earthquake." Fans in the stands chuckled, and Vesnina then prepared to serve.

Vesnina was leading 2-0 when the quake hit and went on to win 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

"It turned out to be just like a two-hour rain delay," said tournament director Anne Worcester.

When the quake struck, fans weren't quite sure what to make of it.

Bob Pallaziolla of Danvers, Mass., said he thought there might have been a crash outside the stadium.

"Then there was another shake, and another shake and I realized it was an earthquake," he said. "It wasn't a truck that hit the stadium or somebody underneath us. It was actually an earthquake. The stadium cleared pretty quickly. Within five seconds people were running."

Gerard Murphy, 69, of Guilford was sitting on a deck in a hospitality suite at the time. He felt the movement and thought perhaps youngsters were shaking the deck.

"Then I looked down at the fans in the seats in front of me and they were all leaving their seats and rushing up the aisle," he said. "I asked the girl for a beer on the way out."

By the end of the afternoon, the gift shop was already selling T-shirts that read, "I survived the 2011 New Haven Open."

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Filed by Michael Klopman  |