General Question

Haleth's avatar

How likely was the DC earthquake?

Asked by Haleth (19525points) July 16th, 2010

Last night at about 5 am there was an earthquake in the DC area that registered an unremarkable 3.6 on the Richter scale. It woke me up and was really an eerie feeling- kind of like a very big truck rumbling by, but definitely from underneath. Apparently there are small fault lines all over, it’s just a matter of how active they are.

How likely is it for something like this to happen? Has a really unlikely natural phenomenon ever hit your area? First we had snowmageddon, now this. WTF, nature.

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14 Answers

chels's avatar

We had a few in Jersey (last year? maybe the year before?) and that hasn’t ever happened so long as I’ve lived here which is 20 years! Or atleast not that I can recall.

Mtl_zack's avatar

A 3.6 on the richter scale is very insignificant. This sort of thing happens very often in areas that have tectonic plates that rub against each other.

It was kind of significant though because there aren’t any major fault lines in DC. There was a strange earthquake in Ottawa and Montreal last week that shouldn’t have happened because the Canadian Shield is supposed to prevent them from happening.

augustlan's avatar

I felt it, too. Weirdest feeling! Years ago, there was an earthquake in Columbia (or maybe it was Greenbelt) Maryland, so it’s not unprecedented. Ooh. The Maryland Geological Survey Website has this to say:

As of late 1993, 47 earthquakes had been reported within Maryland’s borders (Table 3 and Fig. 3).

So, apparently not as rare as we’d like to think. :(

Edit: It was Columbia in 1993. See here for a summary of Maryland earthquakes.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Mtl_zack I grew up in Montreal and lived in Ottawa and occasional earthquakes were felt over those 25 years. Parts of New England and the Eastern Seaboard felt them too.

Mtl_zack's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence Hmmm. I didn’t realize they were that common.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Jeruba's avatar

I still remember the Worcester tornado. A tornado in Massachusetts is pretty unusual. I lived right by the ocean and not out in Worcester, but we had shingles and roof tiles falling into our yards from a black-clouded sky. Although I was very young, I do remember looking up and seeing the strange sight of small objects flying through the air and raining down.

Now I live where earthquakes are expected, but no tornadoes and no blizzards either.

UScitizen's avatar

I’m surprised that no one has answered the direct question. Answer, 100% inevitable. Have you looked at the geologic history of the Appalachian mountains? Earthquakes along the (current) eastern seaboard have occurred for millenia. They will continue.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The northeast does get regular quakes, but less frequent and intense than the west coast.We felt the Montreal quake in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire.

mattbrowne's avatar

It is not that unlikely. Earthquakes can happen anywhere, but both their number and average strengths vary as explained by the mechanisms of plate tectonics.

Last time I felt an earthquake in our region of Germany was 1969. I was 7 years old but I can remember it very vividly. In 1992 during a summer vacation we experienced a tornado warning in Indiana. The sky looked so weird. I will never forget this.

jazmina88's avatar

In the late 1800’s the Mississippi River flowed backwards for 3 days in Memphis and Reelfoot Lake was formed due to an earthquake. There is a big fault line in the midwest.

cazzie's avatar

I lived in New Zealand for 15 years and I kind of got used to the ‘little ones’. But earthquakes are very common along the fault lines. The plates are just floating along, moving on their merry way and we’re on for the ride.

Jeruba's avatar

@UScitizen, apparently you were the only one so far with that knowledge, and factual questions are best answered by people with pertinent knowledge.

But the original question included this: Has a really unlikely natural phenomenon ever hit your area? Several of us answered that part.

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