Quake causes evacuation at New Haven tennis venue

Posted Aug. 23, 2011, at 5:55 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 23, 2011, at 9:32 p.m.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The earthquake that originated in Virginia shook the tennis stadium on the Yale campus Tuesday, sending fans bolting to the aisles and delaying play for more than two hours at the New Haven Open.

The earthquake swayed the stands during the third game of a match between Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and Elena Vesnina of Russia. Vesnia was leading 2-0 and facing two break points on her serve.

Before Vesnina hit her next serve, Jankovic looked up in stunned amazement as spectators rushed from their seats. Seconds later, the chair umpire suspended play.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.

New Haven’s fire marshal and building inspector checked the structure for damage, and declared it structurally sound.

Play resumed at 4:15 p.m. when chair umpire Sandie French said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the resumption of play of a match suspended because of an earthquake.” Fans in the stands chuckled, and Vesnina then prepared to serve.

When the quake struck, fans weren’t quite sure what to make of it.

Bob Pallaziolla of Danvers Mass., said he thought there might have been a crash outside the stadium.

“Then there was another shake, and another shake and I realize it was an earthquake,” he said. It wasn’t a truck that hit the stadium or somebody underneath us. It was actually an earthquake. The stadium cleared pretty quickly. Within five seconds people were running.”

Gerard Murphy, 69, of Guilford was sitting on a deck in a hospitality suite at the time. He felt the movement and thought perhaps youngsters were shaking the deck.

“Then I looked down at the fans in the seats in front of me and they were all leaving their seats and rushing up the aisle,” he said. “I asked the girl for a beer on the way out.”

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