Posts Tagged ‘East Coast’

There’s A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A big shake-up occurred recently in Washington, D.C.,  although it was not of the variety that some would prefer.  The nation’s capital was taken by surprise when it was hit by a 5.9-intensity earthquake that rocked the East Coast and was felt as far away as Boston, North Carolina and even Michigan.  Although early reports said that the Washington Monument was tilting slightly, it was later determined that the stately obelisk only had damage to some of the stone in the pyramid that tops the monument.  Approximately 45 minutes after the 1:51 p.m. quake, Fox News started reporting that it had received reports that the Washington Monument was leaning.  Atlanticwire noted that Twitter “immediately seized on it” and quoted Twitterer Patrick Tansey, as tweeting that “I just walked past the Washington Monument, it’s not tilted at all.” 

The Associated Press reported that “The National Park Service (NPS) says all memorials and monuments on the National Mall were evacuated and closed after an earthquake struck near the nation’s capital.  No damage was reported.”  Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said there was “absolutely no damage” to the Lincoln Memorial or other memorials along the Mall.  According to the NPS, a preliminary inspection shows the Washington Monument to be structurally sound.  But it “is evaluating the structures to ensure that they are structurally sound and safe for all visitors.  The Washington Monument, because of its structural complexities, will remain closed until further notice.  It is possible that the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial could open as early as this evening after preliminary inspection.  The Old Post Office Tower will open on Wednesday morning.” 

One Washington landmark was damaged in the quake.  Washington National Cathedral, an impressive Gothic structure favored by tourists, suffered what is being termed as “significant” damage.  “The building will retain structural integrity,  but the damage to the central tower is quite significant,” Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg said, noting that engineers and stonemasons are assessing the full extent of the damage, how costly the repairs will be and when the cathedral might reopen. 

The quake was shallow, occurring three miles below the earth’s surface.  Washington Metro and commuter rail services ran normally the next morning, but authorities closed several government buildings pending damage inspections.  These include the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security and Interior.  The Labor Department and Health and Human Services buildings were closed at first but later reopened.  D.C. public schools were closed, in addition to schools in several districts in Virginia and Maryland.

Not surprisingly, there were some initial fears that terrorists had struck the region as office workers were evacuated from their buildings.  “In Washington, 10 years later, every day is September 12,” Marc Fisher.  “When the office ceiling shifts to and fro, and the pens and cups fall off the desk, it’s scary enough. But in a terror-scarred city, thoughts go immediately to evil attack rather than natural disaster.”  Or, as the Los Angeles Times says, “when a building shakes in Washington, ‘earthquake’ does not spring to mind.  Instead, as the magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the capital on Tuesday, it sparked immediate fears of a terrorist attack for congressional staff members accustomed to repeated warnings about man-made threats.” 

“At first we weren’t sure exactly what it was, but as we heard the Capitol Police officers and other staff shouting evacuation orders, we knew it was serious,” said congressional staffer Rachel Semmel, who fled without her keys or wallet.  “For a brief moment during evacuation, it was very scary.” 

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said that some buildings in the Capitol complex sustained structural damage and “a couple minor twisted ankles.  Aside from people being a little bit anxious and nervous,” most Capitol complex employees are fine, Gainer said. 

To watch the White House shake during the earthquake, click here.

Snowmageddon Didn’t Halt Economic Growth

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Despite the Snowmageddon that crippled Washington, D.C. and much of the East Coast during February, the economy continued to grow at a modest rate.  This is the opinion of the Federal Reserve’s newly issued Beige Book report – officially known as the “Summary of Commentary on Current Economics Conditions by Federal Reserve District” — which is published monthly.Latest Beige Book report confirms that the economy is growing.

In terms of commercial real estate, the Beige Book notes that activity is still limited.  “Most Districts characterized commercial real estate and construction activity as weak or having declined further, but some Districts noted slight stabilization and a few signs of modest improvement.”  The Beige Book also noted that the snowy February kept prospective house hunters home in some parts of the nation.  According to the report, “Residential real estate markets improved in a number of Districts, although several Districts noted that activity softened or remained weak partly due to extreme winter weather.”

On the jobs scene, the Beige Book reports that “the pace of layoffs slowed in most Districts, but hiring plans still remained generally soft.”

High Costs Could Impact Shipping Routes

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Two trends in international trade worth highlighting:

American exports are booming, thanks to the dollar’s current weakness.  This considerable increase in volume has made it virtually impossible for U.S. manufacturers to get space on container ships within a four-week window, especially for products shipping from the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach to any Pacific Rim destination.  To illustrate the scope of the change, container space from these ports was available on demand just one year ago.  And, according to a recent Reuters article, waiting times for cargo space have jumped from two days to three weeks on the East Coast.

Fast-rising transportation costs that are a direct result of the cost of fuel is another important logistics trend – one that could negatively impact globalization.  According to an August 2 article in the International Herald Tribune by Larry Rohter, shipping a single loaded 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has soared to as much as $8,000 per unit, compared with just $3,000 earlier in the decade.  Additionally, there are cost add-ons, primarily in the form of fuel surcharges and government-mandated fees.  To save on fuel costs, container ships have shaved their top speeds by nearly 20 percent, which means it takes longer for products to reach their intended markets.

Shipping to and from Prince Rupert in British Columbia is slightly less costly, because the distance to Asian ports is shorter than from Los Angeles or Long Beach.  Still, space amounts to several thousand dollars per container.

“If prices stay at these levels, that could lead to some significant rearrangement of production, among sectors and countries,” said C. Fred Bergsten, author of The United States and the World Economy and a director of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.  “You could have a very significant shock to traditional consumption patterns and also some important growth effects.”

A far better alternative could be to ship to and from Asia from the southern border regions, where the going rate is approximately $800 per loaded container.  That price differential could potentially lure companies to move production facilities to Mexico or the Southwestern United States – primarily Texas.  This would give them the opportunity to leverage the more attractive shipping rates through the growing Mexican ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Punto Colonet.