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Surprise Earthquake in U.S.

August 23rd, 2011   Credit: US Geological Survey

Surprise Earthquake in U.S.

August 23, 2011 — There was a surprise, moderate-sized earthquake felt in the eastern United States and up into Canada this afternoon. The earthquake just before 2 pm measured 5.8 on the Richter scale (the Richter scale is one of the official measures of earthquakes).

The epicenter of the quake (where the earthquake originated) was near Richmond, Virginia in the town of Louisa.  Buildings and their contents reportedly swayed from Washington to Boston to New York and was felt as far west as Columbus, Ohio, as far north as Toronto, Canada, and as far South as Thomaston, Georgia.

It was a surprise because earthquakes of this size aren’t common in this part of the country. It was also reported that it didn’t take place on an active fault line.

Click here to view an MSNBC photo slideshow.

As a precaution, thousands of people briefly evacuated buildings, including the Pentagon and many buildings in New York City.  Some airports and train stations were briefly shut down, too. City agencies checked for damage to infrastructure including major bridges and tunnels, as well as power and water supplies.

So far, only relatively minimal damage to buildings and cars has been reported. No deaths have been reported.

Click here to see the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake website for kids.

You may have heard about the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. How do they compare? Haiti’s earthquake in January 2010 was a 7.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake in Japan in March 2011 was measured at 9.0.

What do these numbers mean? Michigan Tech University’s UPSeis program for “budding seismologists ” explains it this way:


credit: UPSeis program of Michigan Tech

After shocks are expected but they are usually smaller in size.

Did you feel the earthquake?

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