Nevada aides join evacuation of Congress after East Coast quake

WASHINGTON — Nevada’s representatives were not in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, but dozens of legislative aides joined the evacuation of Congress after the East Coast earthquake.

No injuries were reported and the exodus from the U.S. Capitol and adjoining office complexes was said to be orderly. The ground-shaking punctuated an otherwise quiet August workday with Congress out of session.

Zac Petkanas, a press secretary for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was walking across the 90-foot-tall atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building when the earthquake hit. Above him, the mobile portion of the atrium’s massive "Mountain and Clouds" sculpture began to sway, and the building windows puckered in and out, much to his worry.

"There was a loud wah-wah-wah noise from the windows. We were concerned glass would be falling," Petkanas said.

The handful of tourists and others in the atrium got out of the building as an alarm sounded, and the complex was evacuated.

Reid staff headed to a prearranged "meet up" location in the park across from the building, where they waited for word when they could return to their offices.

Aides to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., also spent much of Tuesday afternoon outside and waiting for permission to re-enter his suite in the Russell Senate Office Building.

When the tremors hit, "there really wasn’t a feeling of panic," press aide Chandler Smith said. Fifteen or so Heller aides "gathered together and everyone left the office together."

But this being Washington, work was being carried out even as aides were cooling their heels.

"I have my BlackBerry, so I am able to be in contact with staff members," Smith said.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760. Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban contributed to this report.


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