DC
02/06/2012 04:46 pm ET

Catholic University Plans Earthquake Drill Following Seismic Damage From August's 5.8 Magnitude Tremor

WASHINGTON -- Two hundred years ago on Tuesday, a massive earthquake centered near New Madrid, Mo., was felt far across the eastern half of the United States. At the White House, President James Madison and first lady Dolley Madison reportedly felt the massive tremor, estimated to have had at least a 7.7 magnitude.

While emergency management agencies in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee are coordinating seismic preparedness drills for Tuesday's anniversary of the largest tremor in the New Madrid earthquake sequence of 1811 and 1812, there is at least one local D.C.-area participant in the Great Central U.S. Shake Out: Catholic University of America.

For good reason, too.

The university's Marist Hall, which dates to 1899, suffered structural damage during last August's 5.8 magnitude quake that was centered in Virginia's Louisa County.

While there's been plenty of attention on the earthquake damage at the Washington Monument, National Cathedral and Union Station, Marist Hall has been largely overlooked.

The building's southwest wing sustained enough damage to prompt university officials to close the entire building. Repairs have been underway to make the structure stronger.

According to The Tower, part of Marist reopened in December. The remaining portion of the building is scheduled to reopen this spring.

McMahon Hall, which dates to 1901, was briefly closed when quake weakened two 13-ton chimneys that threatened to fall through the building's roof.

With one significant earthquake under its belt, the university is preparing for the next big tremor.

At 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, the university will conduct a 60-second drill and is encouraging the campus community to consult posters around campus about earthquake preparedness and view an instructional video on how to seek safe shelter during an earthquake.

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