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Some quake repairs still under way

August 23, 2012 12:10 am


Roofers put round-tailed, yellow-cedar shingles on the roof of Salubria in Culpeper.


The most prominent reminder of last year's earthquake in Culpeper is the gaping hole on North Main Street where the Ritz Hi Hat/Levy building stood for more than 150 years.

That brick structure, whose front facade began to pull away and lean toward the sidewalk following the initial quake, was torn down a week later when an aftershock made the structure even more unstable.

A year later, there are no plans to replace the Ritz Hi Hat building. Its owner had no earthquake insurance.

The little alleyway sandwich shop next door has been braced from both the outside and inside but remains unoccupied, costing its owner thousands of dollars in lost rent.

The upper facades on two other buildings in the same block and another on Davis Street also had to be replaced at their owners' expense.

Repairs to the brick building at the corner of South East and Culpeper streets were completed only recently. New mortar is evident where re-pointing has been done on the brickwork at the rear of the old Central Hardware building (now a steakhouse).

This summer, the chimney on the Sheriff's Office, another victim of the quake, was finally replaced, while dozens of others within the town and county needed repairs after being damaged.

Hardest hit, at least financially, was St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, which suffered almost $1 million in cosmetic and structural damage.

Most of those repairs have been made to the 191-year-old sanctuary, where Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are said to have worshiped during the Civil War, but the congregation is now embarking on a two-year fundraising effort to help pay for the restoration.

--Donnie Johnston


Dominion power says it is prepared for future earthquakes at North Anna Power Station, and that it is planning ahead to better respond to natural hazards.

With two reactors, North Anna was the first U.S. nuclear power plant to be shut down by an earthquake. Though there was no significant damage to operating or safety systems, the quake's ground motion briefly exceeded that for which the plant was designed. Both reactors were offline for nearly three months for inspections before being allowed to restart last November.

Daniel Stoddard, senior vice president for nuclear operations at Dominion, said during a press briefing last week that the company completed thousands of hours of work, hundreds of system and component inspections and other tests. It installed additional seismic-monitoring equipment, upgraded instrumentation and revised response procedures.

The plant, on Lake Anna near Mineral, was about a dozen miles from the epicenter of the magnitude-5.8 tremor.

--Rusty Dennen


The towering chimneys of Salubria, a circa-1757 Georgian mansion in Culpeper County, were fractured by last year's quake and had to be removed swiftly to protect its hipped roof.

Now, rebuilt by master mason Jimmy Price, the corbeled chimneys stand again, rising 20 feet above the roof. The chimneys were crafted from carefully salvaged bricks and new, oversized ones made by Old Carolina Brick in Salisbury, N.C., to resemble the Colonial-era ones.

The roof, supported by its original beams and hand-carved king post, is getting a new, weather-tight skin.

Peter Post, whose team re-roofed James Madison's Montpelier and outbuildings at Mount Vernon, is making round-tailed shingles of British Columbia yellow cedar to match originals salvaged from the dusty recesses of Salubria's attic.

"All those bricks cascading busted the rafters in the attic," said Douglas Harnsberger, the architectural historian from Swarthmore, Pa., who is supervising the work. "So we have eight ruptured rafters as well, and we are repairing those, and sistering new rafters in to repair the framing. And then we are putting a new shingled roof on, because the shingle up there is at the end of its life. It's 30 years old."

Virginia Lime Works of Madison Heights, Historic Roofing of Richmond and Hitt Contracting of Falls Church are collaborating on the repairs. The craftsmen aim to complete the job by late September.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency grant will cover about $356,000 of the project's $950,000 cost. Salubria's steward, the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, is raising the rest "from generous patriots," it said.

--Clint Schemmer and Dan McFarland


Germanna Community College students were in the second day of the fall semester when the earthquake rumbled beneath them last August.

Classes were called off for what students dubbed a "quake break." Nursing students returned to instruction at the Locust Grove Campus in Orange County one week after the temblor, and the remaining students resumed classes Sept. 6.

The V. Earl Dickinson Building on the Fredericksburg Area Campus in Spotsylvania County was the only building on the college's two campuses and two centers to sustain significant damage. It was declared unsafe and hasn't been used since.

Repairs began in May and are to be finished by the end of next month. Classes are slated to resume there in January.

The price tag for repairs and associated costs such as leasing space for classes totaled roughly $3.5 million. All but a $5,000 deductible should be covered by the state's insurance.

Staff are expected to begin moving back into Dickinson by the end of October while renovations take place in another part of the building.

Counselors will be available for those needing assistance returning to the building.

--Pamela Gould


Four Spotsylvania schools suffered damage totaling $22,201.57, schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said.

A wall around the mechanical structures outside Battlefield Middle was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of $12,488, the most expensive repair needed.

Livingston Elementary, the school closest to the Louisa County line, needed $4,803.31 in repairs to its well pump and $800 worth of potable water while the repairs took place. The air conditioner at Freedom Middle needed repairs totaling $2,445.26. Post Oak Middle braced a wall at a cost of $1,665.

The school division applied to FEMA for reimbursement of the costs but has not received an answer, Daniels said.

--Pamela Gould


Orange County's schools experienced minor damage, mostly cosmetic, from the earthquake, according to Doug Arnold, facilities coordinator.

The most serious damage--4 feet of concrete-block wall shaken loose near the top of the Locust Grove Primary gym--was repaired within weeks of the start of school.

The school system is getting bids for the remaining work, primarily repair and repainting of drywall and concrete-block walls, ceilings and joints.

The bulk of the work is expected to be accomplished next summer, said Arnold, who was hired a mere 30 minutes before the earthquake.

--Dan McFarland

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.