Seismologist Compares East Coast Earthquake Strike to Ringing a Bell

Posted on August 24, 2011

Virginia 5.8 mag shake map

The USGS released a statement about yesterday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck central Virginia yesterday and was felt throughout the mid-Atlantic states and beyond. The earthquake, which occurred in Virginia's Central Virginia Seismic Zone, was nearly as strong as the strongest recorded earthquake in Virginia - a 5.9 quake in Giles County, Va. in May 1897. The strongest recorded earthquake to strike the East Coast was the 1886 Charleston, S.C., earthquake, which was about a magnitude 7.3.

There have been reports that people from the earthquake prone regions of the west coast are laughing at the large reaction a 5.8-mag quake received from people and the media in the east coast. Peggy Hellweg, a seismologist at the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory in California, says a 5.9 magnitude earthquake is felt much more broadly than a quake in California. The bedrock in Virginia is harder and closer to the surface. She says an earthquake hitting the east coast is like ringing a bell with the impact felt around the entire surface of the bell. Take a look:

Image: U.S. Geological Survey