February 21, 2020
Buildings in downtown Miami shake as impact from Caribbean earthquake is felt here
By Joey Flechas, Douglas Hanks, and Charles Rabin

The seismic force from a powerful earthquake that struck south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica on Tuesday was felt in downtown Miami, swaying buildings, triggering evacuations, and confusing office workers who wondered if they’d fallen ill.

The magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon, with the epicenter about 6 miles beneath the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Stephen P. Clark Center, the home of Miami-Dade County’s municipal government daily operations, was evacuated, according to Miami-Dade Police. So were some buildings in the Brickell area, according to Miami Police.

Discussions are under way about closing the Metrorial and Metromover. Miami Police also say there have been no injuries or road closures. 

Social media posts showed people outside other downtown skyscrapers after they felt the impact.

Lawyer Eli Stiers was in his office at the penthouse of Museum Tower, 150 West Flagler, across from the Miami Dade Cultural Center. Around 2:20 p.m. or so, he felt something strange.

“I’m sitting in my office and started to feel a very slight sway,” Stiers said. “I didn’t know whether I had some bad sushi for lunch or what. But then I looked at my office door and saw it teetering on its hinges. I asked people in the office if they felt it. When people stopped for a second and registered what was going on, they said yes, the building is moving.”

They called the building manager, who had also felt the tremor. An evacuation of the building was ordered.

“We said, Let’s get out of the building. We all went downstairs. We didn’t know whether it was an earthquake or a sinkhole or what. 

The quaking lasted two to three minutes, Stiers said.

A short while later, the fire marshal gave an all clear and everyone went back to work.

“It’s crazy that we would feel this that far away,” Stiers said of the 7.7-magnitude quake.

Some people in Miami-Dade’s county office building, the Clark Center, reported feeling the 29-story tower jostle after the earthquake struck. Some county workers chose to leave but the building did not order an immediate evacuation, said Tara Smith, head of the county’s Internal Services Department. But by 3 p.m., the city’s Fire Department ordered a full evacuation “as a precaution,” Smith said.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said city officials felt the quake in the city’s emergency operations facility, located a short walk away from the county government center. The center was already operating due to the influx of visitors for Super Bowl 54, which will be played Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The players of the San Franscisco 49ers, no strangers to earthquakes, are staying at the JW Marriott Marquis downtown.

“We have inspectors ready for property owners who want to make sure the integrity of their buildings have not been compromised,” Suarez told the Miami Herald.

People in office buildings in Kendall also felt the swaying and evacuated, according to social media posts.