A rare -- for the East Coast -- earthquake rumbled up and down the eastern seaboard of North America Tuesday afternoon, jumbling nerves as far south as Atlanta and as far north as Canada.

The 5.9-magnitude quake was centered near Louisa, Va., about 85 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The shaking forced the evacuations of all the monuments on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as well as the Pentagon, the White House and the Capitol, according to the Associated Press. And it prompted workers to walk out of office buildings in cities from Baltimore to Boston.

There were no reports of serious injuries or serious damage from the temblor, which struck shortly before 2 p.m. eastern time.

But the quake led operators of two nuclear reactors in the same county as Louisa, Va., to take the plants off line as a precaution so safety systems could be examined, the AP reported, citing a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman.

"It's a minor earthquake," said Dr. Charles Marmar, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. "Most people will go about their business without any distress."

But, he added, people who have experienced traumatic events such as the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 or combat may have more severe reactions.

"Sometimes people with mental illness can be more affected if they overgeneralize the threat; some people who have previous exposure to very severe traumatic events could be more affected," Marmar said.

"If someone were very heavily exposed to 9/11 or to combat or other stresses, they might be more unsettled by this. But, in general people do well."

More information

For more details on the quake, visit the U.S. Geological Survey.

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