10 years later: Louisa community reflects on 5.8 magnitude earthquake

Local News

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – August 23, 2021, marks ten years since a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the East Coast bringing down buildings, businesses and homes.

A 2015 report from the U.S. Geological Survey said the August 2011 earthquake may have been the most widely felt in U.S. history.

The event was felt from Central Virginia through D.C., New England and even parts of Canada. It destroyed Louisa High School and an elementary school.

Former Louisa County employees, county leaders and first responders came together Monday at the steps of Louisa County High School to reflect ten years later.

“The earthquake also damaged other buildings, other schools, many businesses and many homes in our community,” LCPS Superintendent Doug Straley said addressing the crowd. “But what it didn’t destroy was our community.”

Related coverage: Louisa County H.S. community reflects five years after devastating earthquake

Candance Wilkerson was the principal of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School when the earthquake struck. It was her first year as principal.

“I was on the phone with a grandparent, and I remember we were talking, and then I was like, ‘My pictures are falling,” she said.

The elementary school was destroyed, but she said community leaders helped them rebuild the school and spirits.

“Just the willingness to listen to the community. Just to make sure the community felt heard and felt safe … that’s just a big memory of mine,” she told 8News.

Louisa High School senior Alexis Downey was a second-grader when the earthquake hit. She recalls being outside for recess.

“As the ground started to shake, I fell off the swings,” she recalled.

Downey said it was a team effort to gather students and to eventually get them back into classrooms. The district set up modular trails for students.

“We were back in school in less than a month — I think it was two or three weeks,” she said. “I don’t think any other community would’ve been able to do that.”

Leaders planted a “Tree of Hope” outside Louisa High School to honor the heroes who helped on August 23, 2011.

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