Hundreds of people used the USGS website and their “Did you feel it?” web reporting tool to report shaking they felt from an early morning earthquake that struck the Hastings-on-Hudson area of New York, just outside of New York City and across the Hudson River from New Jersey. The relatively weak magnitude 2.2 event struck at 1:53 am this morning in Westchester County at a depth of 9.8 km. While there were no reports of damage, people used both social media and the USGS website to share their experiences. People across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut reported feeling the late-night earthquake.
According to USGS, earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.0 or less are rarely felt or heard by people, but once they exceed 2.0, as this event did, more and more people can feel them. While damage is possible with magnitude 3.0 events or greater, significant damage and casualties usually don’t occur until the magnitude of a seismic event rises to a 5.5 or greater rated event.
Within the last 30 days, USGS reported no other earthquakes around the area of today’s. Last month, there were several earthquakes in western New York near Watertown. In April, an earthquake also rocked portions of southern New Hampshire.
According to the Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC), New York is a state with a very long history of earthquake activity that has touched all parts of the state. Since the first earthquake that was recorded in December 19, 1737, New York has had over 550 earthquakes centered within its state boundaries through 2016. It also has experienced strong ground shaking from earthquakes centered in nearby U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Most of the quakes in New York have taken place in the greater New York City area, in the Adirondack Mountains region, and in the western part of the state.
While many of the earthquakes to hit New York are weak like today’s, some have been damaging. Of the 551 earthquakes recorded between 1737 and 2016, 5 were considered “damaging”: 1737, 1929, 1944, 1983, and 2002.
While most of New York’s earthquakes have been in the Upstate, New York City has also seen damaging earthquakes over the years. At about 10:30 pm on December 18, 1737, an earthquake with an unknown epicenter hit New York with an estimated magnitude of 5.2. That quake damaged some chimneys in the city. On August 10, 1884, another 5.2 earthquake struck; this quake cracked chimneys and plaster, broke windows, and objects were thrown from shelves throughout not only New York City, but surrounding towns in New York and New Jersey too. The shaking from the 1884 earthquake was felt as far west as Toledo, Ohio and as far east as Penobscot Bay, Maine. It was also reported felt by some in Baltimore, Maryland.