USGS crowd sources earthquake reports

The 5.8 magnitude quake that hit Virginia was felt across much of the Eastern seaboard.

Maybe Washington-area folks are more conscientious than others.

By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, nearly three hours after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Mineral, Va., about 90 miles outside Washington, more than 9,000 people had responded to a U.S. Geological Survey crowd sourcing page that aimed to gather information about the earthquake's effects.

A 4.4 magnitude quake that hit Southern California in June garnered only 282 responses.

Then again, maybe Washingtonians just can't stay off their smartphones.

The Did You Feel It? USGS site asks for users' ZIP codes and addresses on the first page, then drills down into their experiences on the second page, asking whether they were inside, outside, or in a moving vehicle when the quake hit, and whether there was damage to the building they were in or internal disarray.

The site also asks how the user felt about the quake: no reaction, excited, or extremely frightened.

The agency uses the responses to provide "a rapid assessment of the extent of shaking and damage for emergency responders" and to make crowd sourced maps of the severity of quake impacts when there are enough responses, according to a Frequently Asked Questions tab on the site.

The site was recently expanded to gather information on quakes worldwide, the tab said, and evidently has been in operation for several years.

An answering machine at the USGS press office said the building has been evacuated. As of 4:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, USGS officials had not returned a call from Nextgov seeking further information about the page.

USGS does remove some erroneous responses, the site said.