All About The Earthquake…

By Meteorologist Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV
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Joe Joyce WBZ-TV Meteorologist

Joe Joyce WBZ-TV Meteorologist

4.0 on the Richter Scale Earthquake in Maine last night at 7:12 PM 20 miles west of Porland, ME just south of Hollis, ME.

Earthquake was felt across New England all the way to Northern New Jersey. Here are just a few of the storm reports gathered shortly after the rumbling tremors stopped.

Charlie Lopresti‏: Report of major structure damage to a house in Biddeford ME.

Lake Arrowhead, Maine. “Son Fell out of Chair, Wall Separated and Pics off Wall.

Over 70 phone calls reported by Needham PD regarding the quake

Brian Clough‏: felt in Foxboro, ma, knocked over some furniture

Wolfgang (Needham EMA): More of a 10 sec rattle than a wave.

Mario J. Bruno‏: Felt it in Glastonbury, CT – house shaking!

Believe it or not Earthquakes happen on a frequent basis in the Northeast.  In just the past month, we have had 7 small tremors. The Northeast averages about 40-50 earthquakes annually…most of them are small and do little if any damage. But last night was an exception! According to the Weston Observatory last night 4.0 was the strongest earthquake we have had since the 4.2 in Bar Harbor in 2006. Just this past April we had a 4.0 in S. Yarmouth Maine. So these things do happen, but any magnitude over 4 is certainly more damaging…in fact you really need to get a 5 or more on the Richter scale for damage to really start  to occur. Still, numerous reports of knocked over furniture, cracked foundations and chimneys with mostly minor damage being reported. Any structural damage which may have occurred to your home will likely not be covered by insurance. Typical.

The fact that the Northeast east is so densely populated puts more people at risk for the possibilty of a larger earthquake. Most of our homes are older and historical in some cases. These kind of homes are not built to withstand the shaking of a moderate to large Earthquake. You may be wondering “How can this happen? Does New England lie on a fault or something?” It is a good honest question. Unlike California, which is more prone to Earthquakes because of it’s proximtiy to faults and the effects of Plate Tectonics…in New England the reasons for earthquakes is very uncertain and scientists continue to be puzzled even today.

Earthquakes can occur at anytime without warning. They are impossible to forecast. Earthquakes simply happen by a shifting of rock underneath the earth’s surface. We do not reside on a fault where plates collide, pull away of shift past each other. In fact we are located in the middle of a plate. Some would call this latest rumble intraplate activity far from any plate boundary where Earthquakes typically happen. Most scientists have come to explain New England earthquakes as a release of energy from ancient zones of weakness reactivated by the present day stresses within the bedrock. The geology of New England goes back over the course of hundreds of millions of years…to the days of Pangea as North America began to separate from Africa and the Atlantic Ocean began to form! Then you throw in a few ice ages in the mix and you can imagine the scars which lie within our bedrock from the constant slow motion and change over the course of time. Geology is a whole other science…outside of my expertise…but it sure is amazing to think about the processes which have occured on this planet over this time. This is something most do not think about or even understand about this planet. The Earth has gone through so many transformations…and will continue to change until the end of time.

Here is a list of New England’s Top 5 Greatest Recorded Earthquakes going back to the 1500’s

6.5 (1638) in Central New Hampshire, Near Goffstown

6.2 (1755) Cape Ann, Massachusett’s worst earthquake..numerous buildings destroyed

5.6 (1727) Newbury, MA

5.5 (1940) Near Tamworth, NH in the Ossipee mtns

5.1 (2002) Outside of Essex, VT

Again anything over a 5 becomes problematic, especially for this part of the nation. A 5 in California will not effect as large of an area as a 5 would in New England because of the bedrock which lies under the surface. The waves and reverberation travels further in the more tightly compacted rock.  That is partially why this earthquake could be felt all the way to Connecticut  into New Jersey!

 

 

 

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