East coast earthquake: Don’t be surprised by earthquake, say experts

Suzanne Beatty comforts her son Quentin Beatty, 7, on a street in TriBeCa

Many were surprised to learn that an earthquake that occurred in Virginia could be felt as far north as Toronto and as far south as North Carolina.
 
But we shouldn’t be, said seismology experts interviewed by Metro.
 
“Earthquakes in the Eastern part of the U.S. are felt over larger areas of size than their counterparts elsewhere in the country,” said Larry Brown, a Cornell University seismology professor.
 
That’s because here on the East Coast, the Earth’s crust is older and more solidified than out West, making it easier for earthquake waves to travel great distances. On the West Coast, the crust has been busted up by quakes and tremors so often that fault lines are common. Every fault line breaks up an earthquake wave, and stops its travel, said Brown.
 
“It would not surprise me if this earthquake was felt as far north as Canada, and reports have it as far west as Detroit,” he said.
 
“It’s time not be surprised,” agreed Jerry Hajjar, chair of the department engineering at Northeastern University, who studies earthquakes as a structural engineer. “There are potential fault zones and down the East Coast, and we don’t know them all because we’ve only been recording them for about 100 years.”
 
There are two regions on the East Coast that have the highest potential for “reasonably large” earthquakes, said Hajjar: Charleston, South Carolina and Quebec. Everything else in between is fair game for tremors and shocks, he said.
 
Other than South Carolina and Quebec, New York City and Virginia are two pockets that also stand out for elevated seismic activity, said Hajjar. Yesterday’s quake occurred in Mineral, Virginia.
 
“I think it’s important that people on the East Coast recognize that earthquakes are possible,” he said. “There’s still much more room for improvement to design buildings to withstand this potential hazard.”



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