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Northeast of U.S. quivers in rare quake

April 20, 2002 Posted: 3:28 PM EDT (1928 GMT)


PLATTSBURGH, New York (CNN) -- An unusually strong earthquake was felt across the Northeast United States and parts of Canada early Saturday morning, rattling residents and buckling roads in the region of the epicenter. No injuries or deaths have been reported.


The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the quake, setting the preliminary magnitude at 5.1 -- capable of causing considerable damage. It was centered 15 miles southwest of Plattsburgh, New York. According to the USGS, the quake happened at 6:50 a.m.

The Canadian Geological Survey reported an earthquake of magnitude 5.5. Frank Revetta, the director of the Potsdam Seismic Network at SUNY-Potsdam, said the Canadian figure may prove to be more accurate.

Jim King, director of Clinton County Emergency Services, told CNN two aftershocks have been felt -- one about 15 minutes after the initial earthquake, and a second shortly before 9 a.m.

The quake caused this road to collapse outside Plattsburgh, New York.
The quake caused this road to collapse outside Plattsburgh, New York

"We're assessing the damage that's been called in," said King. "We have a couple of roads that have failed." He said State Route 9 was closed to traffic because of damage from the quake.

New York Department of Transportation workers began inspecting bridges for possible damage, and a lot of people had called in reports of damage ranging from shattered glass to cracked ceilings and chimneys. King said the county had declared an emergency. Plattsburgh reported no significant damage or injuries.

George Facteau, a resident of Plattsburgh, said statues and pictures in his apartment started to fall down, then his cat jumped up and ran out of the room.

"Actually at first it was kind of scary," Facteau said. "I wasn't quite sure what was going on."

Facteau said he lives close to several banks and a federal building. "That was my first concern, actually."

The USGS said in an earthquake bulletin that "the earthquake was felt from Buffalo, New York to Boston, Massachusetts and Baltimore, Maryland."

Police across the region say they received calls of concern about tremors from New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. There were similar calls in Ontario.

In Connecticut, an unidentified man in Enfield said he and a friend were fishing Saturday morning when they heard a sound "kind of like when big trucks drive by. The ground shook and my buddy just said, 'Did you feel that?' We looked at each other and didn't think nothing of it."

Police in New London, New Hampshire, say they have received a few dozen calls about tremors. A police dispatcher said residents are reporting that the earth shook for 15 to 20 seconds. A dispatcher said the apparent tremors, however, weren't very intense.

One resident reported that "everything was shaking."

Sgt. Russell See of the New Haven, Connecticut, police said the department had received calls from people who had felt the tremor or tremors and were concerned. One caller said the house shook.

See said police had confirmed the information with other police departments across the state, but that they had no reports of damage or injuries.

CNN also received an e-mail from a Syracuse, New York, resident, who reported being awakened by what appeared to be a quake.

When an earthquake occurs, the first information that is processed and relayed is usually based on a small subset of the seismic stations in the network, especially in the case of a larger earthquake. This is done so that some information can be obtained immediately without waiting for all of it to be processed.

As a result, the first magnitude reported is usually based on a small number of recordings. As additional data are processed and become available, the magnitude and location are refined and updated. Sometimes, the assigned magnitude is "upgraded" or slightly increased, and sometimes it is "downgraded" or slightly decreased.

Severe earthquakes have occurred in the eastern United States, but are most commonly associated with the West. The USGS estimates that a magnitude 6 earthquake in November 1775 heavily damaged Boston.

The strongest earthquakes recorded in the continental United States occurred in eastern Missouri near the border with Kentucky and Tennessee, not out West. During the winter of 1811-1812, a series of three earthquakes, with estimated magnitudes of 8.4 to 8.7, occurred near New Madrid, Missouri.

The shocks were so strong that they changed the course of the Mississippi River, church bells rang in Washington D.C. and Boston, and observers reported that the land distorted into visible rolling waves.

There were few deaths or damage because the surrounding area was mostly undeveloped at the time.

The quake caused this road to collapse outside Plattsburgh, New York




Don Vallone



KD2REU Lakeshore Weather Network



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