BUCKSPORT, Maine — Area residents reported hearing a loud noise, like cannon fire, and houses rattling as a 3.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a minor aftershock struck eastern Maine late Tuesday afternoon. The earthquake prompted numerous calls to the Bucksport Public Safety complex, but no injuries or damages were reported.
The earthquake, which occurred about 4:42 p.m. and registered 3.0 on the Richter Scale, was centered in Orrington near the Bucksport town line. It was recorded by the University of Maine’s seismometer, which was installed last year, according to Alice Kelley, instructor and undergraduate coordinator for UM’s Department of Earth Sciences.
Kelley said the equipment detected the smaller 1.1 magnitude aftershock, which occurred about 20 minutes later in Holden near the Orrington town line.
Because the earthquake was centered in a remote part of Orrington between Kings Mountain and Thurston Pond, most of the people who reported feeling it were from Bucksport.
“I was on break,” said Chris Jordan, a maintenance associate at Hannaford’s supermarket on Route 1 near the downtown Bucksport area. “It felt like something had hit the building, like a semi had backed into one of the barriers like they usually do.”
“There was a low rumbling, like a truck backing up,” he said.
Despite the vibrations, there was no damage to the store.
“It was only a brief shaking; it only lasted three seconds,” Jordan said.
At BookStacks on Main Street, customers and staff heard a loud boom and the windows of the store rattled, according to part-time worker Faith Johnson-Carr.
“One man said it sounded like a mortar,” Johnson-Carr said. “There was a boom and the glass shook. Everybody said it sounded like when the cannons go off at the fort [Fort Knox Historic Site], but it was coming from the wrong direction.”
There was no damage at the store, she said.
“I’m just amazed,” she added. “I’m 50 years old and this is my first earthquake. I’m kind of excited, but I’m just glad there wasn’t any damage.”
As far as earthquakes go, it was “a very minor” one, geophysicist Don Blakeman at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., said Tuesday evening.
An earthquake of that magnitude would not result in injury or damage, though “something that was precariously placed on a shelf might fall off,” Blakeman said.
Most likely, those who felt it would have noticed “a quick jolt lasting maybe a second or two. They’re very quick,” he said.
The aftershock would have been harder to detect, he said. “They’re so tiny, maybe somebody in a very quiet environment might notice them.”
Kelley said that UM’s equipment recorded the activity from recent major tremblers in Haiti and Chile, but that Tuesday marked the first time it recorded any significant activity in Maine.
“This is the first really nice record we’ve gotten,” she said, adding that the data is transmitted to Weston Observatory at Boston College and the New England Seismic Network.
The larger of the two earthquakes was still significant enough to get more than 30 people to call the Bucksport Public Safety Building to find out what had happened, according to Dispatcher Dan Joy.
“They just wanted to know what was going on,” Joy said. There were no reports of any damage in the town from the quake, but residents “said they felt the ground shaking and the houses rattling.”
Town Councilor Bryon Vinton lives out on the Bucks Mill Road outside the center of town.
“I heard something, but I didn’t know what it was,” Vinton said. “It sounded like an explosion, but I had no idea what it was.”
He said he felt a slight vibration, but not enough to make him think there had been an earthquake.
“If somebody had asked me ‘What was that?’ I wouldn’t have thought ‘earthquake.”’
On the River Road, also known as Route 15, Michael Bires said he felt and heard the quake, but added that it seemed to be stronger closer in toward the center of town.
“There was a boom, a big, loud boom,” he said. “It sounded like a big cannon going off.”
Bires said his son lives on River Road closer to town and felt the impact more strongly.
“He said it shook his house pretty good,” Bires said.
Kelley of the University of Maine said little is known about why earthquakes happen in Maine.
“They don’t fit the usual pattern,” she said. While most people think of earthquakes as happening near active fault lines, the ones that happen here are considered “intraplate” quakes, which comprise about 5 percent of all quakes. Intraplate quakes, she said, tend to be minor and “seem to happen in swarms.”