Minor quake centered in Powhatan was felt as far north as N.Y.
The Big One: The Sixth Seal
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 11:40 pm, Fri May 23, 2014.
BY MARK BOWES Richmond Times-Dispatch
A relatively minor earthquake centered in Powhatan County was felt as far north as New York, but aside from jarred nerves and shaking buildings, the tremors caused no major problems, emergencies, damage or injuries in central Virginia, authorities said.
The magnitude-3.2 quake that occurred at 9:47 p.m. Wednesday was too small to cause any serious damage, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Center in Golden, Colo.
“The only kind of damage that would happen with something like this would be if there was something in someone’s house that was very precariously located — like something on the edge of a shelf,” Blakeman said. “You would not get structural damage or window breakage or anything like that.”
The quake’s epicenter was near the 1800 block of Nichols Road (state Route 650), just south of Deep Creek in Powhatan, according to latitude and longitude coordinates calculated by the agency.
“We can get these kind of quakes almost anywhere in the U.S.,” Blakeman said. “And they can happen every year or two, easily.”
Earthquakes of such magnitude can alarm residents who rarely experience them, Blakeman said, “but in terms of effects, it’s not a big deal.”
As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, more than 1,900 people had posted responses about the quake on the agency’s website, which offers a “Did you feel it?” section. The large majority were Virginia residents, the most coming from Powhatan with 240 responses.
But three dozen people reported experiencing the quake in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and North Carolina.
Several central Virginia residents said what made Wednesday’s quake a little different than ones they previously experienced was the loud booming noise at the end of it. Residents said they felt tremors or rumbling lasting from a few seconds up to 20 seconds.
“Things started shaking like you’d think it was an earthquake or a heavy truck going down the road,” said Powhatan Undersheriff Chris DeHart. “But right at the end of it, there was kind of like a loud boom.”
Dehart said he initially believed something had exploded. But when he contacted Powhatan emergency communications he learned that residents from all over the county had called. That, he said, “pretty much” confirmed it was an earthquake.
“It was a little unnerving … (but) a little exciting,” said Tracy Cifers, manager of the County Seat restaurant across from the Powhatan Court House.
Cifers said she heard and felt a rumbling noise that lasted about five seconds.
Catherine Callis said she was home when she noticed a collection of dolls shaking on a shelf, and then her children ran from their rooms. Her boyfriend, James Garrigan, said the tremor lasted about 20 seconds and sounded like “heavy thunder or a freight train rolling by.”
“I definitely knew what it was,” Garrigan said.
Lindsay Tharp, an employee of the Four Seasons restaurant across from the Powhatan Courthouse, said she was closing the business with other workers when the quake rumbled. At first she thought the sound was a co-worker rolling a mop bucket across the floor, and then noticed that the bucket was bouncing.
“What did you do,” Tharp said she asked her co-worker. He said, “I didn’t do anything. Did we just have an earthquake?”
“Maybe,” Tharp replied. “Or your mop bucket is just really, really loud.”
Tharp said she didn’t think it was an earthquake until after the shaking stopped.
Powhatan Sheriff’s Investigator Jason Tackett said he heard a loud roar as his house shook for 15 to 18 seconds. “That’s about the fourth or fifth time we’ve had that out here in the last five or ten years,” he noted.
Melissa Jones, a clerk at KB’s Pit Stop on Clementon Road in Amelia, said she was home with her three children when she heard a loud boom and the house began to shake. “I thought somebody ran off the road and hit the house,” she said.
Jones said it wasn’t until she called her husband that she realized an earthquake had struck.
Blakeman said central Virginia could experience a few aftershocks in coming days or weeks, but it’s not a given.
“We very often see quakes this size that are individual (events) — they are just single quakes and that’s all you see for a while,” he said. “But it is certainly possible that there could be a couple of aftershocks after this … that are smaller in magnitude than the main quake.”
Blakeman said it’s also possible that a larger quake could occur, “but that chance isn’t necessarily increased by (Wednesday’s) quake.”
“But that’s not something that I would worry about,” he added. “The fact that this one happened doesn’t mean that something else is imminent.”