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Disasters & Extreme WeatherEarthquakes

What Caused the Virginia Earthquake Today?

The East Coast is not a hot earthquake zone these days. And Virginia doesn’t sit on an active earthquake fault. It was a hot earthquake zone about 200-300 million years ago. So, what caused the earthquake in Virginia today?

Well, because of its “fault scars” left over from that time probably, as pressure can build up there and cause such earthquakes to happen.

virginia earthquake map

“We are just seeing pressure build up and release on those scars,” Karen Fischer, seimologist of Brown University, said. “There is a lot of debate on exactly what is going on down there and exactly how quakes this big happen in this kind of crustal zone.”

–>> You may also like: Maps of Today’s Virginia Earthquake

While earthquakes are less common on the East Coast, but with colder and firmer crust than you find on the West Coast, the shocks travel further and faster, which is why my sister and at least one East Coast writer of ours felt the earthquake very clearly all the way up in New York City.

Here’s some more information on today’s earthquake and how it compares to others in Virginia’s history from a Richmond site:

December 9, 2003: At 3:59 p.m. EST (20:59 UTC) in the foothills about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Richmond and was felt as far away as Norfolk; Magnitude 4.5

July 6, 2009: At 11:59:52 PM EDT about 1 km SW of Short Pump; Magnitude 2.3

So this is definitely the strongest one that many area residents have likely felt. In fact, the largest Virginia earthquake in recorded history occurred on May 31, 1897 in Giles County and is estimated to have had a magnitude of 5.8–which is what preliminary reports record this recent one as.

And more from another Virginia site:

Before today’s quake, Virginia’s largest earthquake was a 5.9 temblor that hit in Giles County in 1897 and was felt in 12 states, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to the USGS website, the largest damaging earthquake in the central Virginia seismic zone occurred in 1875 and was magnitude 4.8.

Virginia has had more than 160 earthquakes in the past three decades, but only about a sixth of them were felt.

Yeah, this is unusual.

Earthquake map via USGS




30 comments
  1. D.C. Tuncay

    I lived in Ashland, VA just outside Richmond and near Short Pump. So glad I’m not there now, it really would have freaked me out. I lived through the 1999 7.8 Marmara earthquake in Turkey. I read a report stating the seismic records show that this was not a natural earthquake but an underground nuclear explosion, mini nukes. How true that is, I don’t know.

  2. Bruce

    Could there have been any connection with the earthquake that same day in the morning in Trinidad, CO I think that was a 5.4 or something like. No one seems to be talking about that one and it seems unusual that they happened within just a few hours of each other. Trinidad in the morning and Virginia in the afternoon.

      1. David Anderson

        the conspiracy theorists are saying that it was a strike against the secret western ruling cabal’s underground bases near DC and Denver. Who knows, but that makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard…

  3. Dale Brown

    We’re 26 miles from the epicenter and apparently had no more damage than Amber in Ontario. But we felt it. The entire house shook for nearly a minute. At first I envisioned a jumbo jet barrelling toward our house, as the walls shook, items fell from shelves all over the house, with the sound of dishes breaking as they fell. Pictures on the walls stayed there for the most part, but most were sent askew by the rumblings. My wife likened it to the effect of a washing machine in a spin cycle when the load gets unbalanced. Everything rattled, rumbled, shook, banged, vibrated. Now multiply that by a factor of 20? 30? 40? But no major damage here.

  4. Amber Pearson

    We were in class at college downtown St.Catharines, Ontario when the building started to shake and we heard the glass in the windows grinding against the frame.We were on the second floor and had to evacuate. On the third and fifth floor two panes of glass cracked from top to bottom. We were allowed to retrieve personal belongings after the city engineer went through with the fire department. Scary stuff…

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