Engineers, building inspectors and safety officials fanned out across the cottage-country town of Gracefield, Que. on Thursday to assess the extent of the damage sustained in a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that hit the town hard the day before.

In the earthquake felt in the greater part of the Eastern Seaboard, Gracefield was hit the hardest.

Situated 90 kilometres north of Gatineau, the community was under a state of emergency until Thursday, when engineers determined most buildings were sound.

Still, the earthquake cracked foundations and sent bricks tumbling in the town.

Rainfall of rock

The tremors generated a rainfall of bricks and rock from the steeple of the community church, creating divots in the ground below.

Later, engineers walking on Gracefield's popular Northfield Bridge noticed it swaying back and forth as they went across, prompting officials to shutter the river crossover until they could shore it up.

Ministry inspectors will look at the bridge, and a road detour has been put in place. Users need to take Calumet Road to Route 105, and traffic slowdowns are expected. There is no word yet on when the bridge will re-open.

Potential to generate up to magnitude 7.0

The earthquake took place in an area called the West Quebec Seismic Zone, which encompasses the Ottawa Valley and has boundaries of Montreal, Temiscaming, the Laurentians and eastern Ontario.

Geologists say the area has the potential to generate earthquakes of up to magnitude 7.0; so far, the greatest quake took place in 1935, with Temiscaming sustaining a 6.2.

In Ottawa, the tremors on Wednesday jammed cell-phone lines as tens of thousands tried to get in touch with their families.

Public servants poured on to downtown streets from their offices, creating gridlock as many of them were told to go home.

Inspections by federal agency Public Works later determined no damage to government buildings.

Criticisms raised about emergency response

With many people told on Wednesday to leave their buildings immediately, concerns have been raised about that response.

The proper procedure, according to the Government of Canada, is to "duck, cover and hold" if you're inside a building.

This means taking shelter under heavy furniture, covering your head and torso to prevent being hit, and holding on to the object you are lying underneath of to make sure you remain covered.

If there's no furniture nearby, flatten yourself or crouch against an interior wall.

Stay away from windows and heavy objects, and if you're driving and feel it, pull over. If outside, get into an open area away from buildings.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins

Road detour map