Mainers feel Canadian earthquake

By From Staff and Wire Reports, Special to the BDN
Posted June 23, 2010, at 3:38 p.m.

TORONTO — A magnitude-5.0 earthquake struck at the Ontario-Quebec border region of Canada on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and homes and businesses were shaken from Canada’s capital in Ottawa on south to an arc of U.S. states.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Click here for a graph of the seismic activity. Image courtesy of Weston Observatory / New England Seismic Network.

Morgan Moschetti, a seismologist with the USGS, said it was not unusual for an earthquake to be felt 300 miles from the epicenter and noted that the latest quake was felt in the U.S. from Chicago to Maine.

Other states that reported feeling tremors were Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.

The epicenter of the quake was in Quebec, about 23 miles north of Cumberland, Ontario, on the Ottawa River, the USGS said.

The agency said the quake occurred at a depth of about 12 miles at 1:45 p.m. The agency initially said the quake had a 5.5 magnitude, but later reduced it to a magnitude-5.0.

Though not considered a powerful one, Tuesday’s earthquake was strong enough to be felt throughout western, southern and central Maine. In Portland, a medical office building was evacuated for a short time after workers felt the building shaking.

A feature on the USGS’s website that allows the public to report if they felt the temblor showed Mainers from as far north as Waterville, Skowhegan and Anson were able to detect it.

There were no reports of injuries.

Tuesday’s earthquake was recorded by the University of Maine’s seismometer, which was installed last year, according to geologist Alice Kelley, instructor and undergraduate coordinator for UM’s department of earth sciences.

“That information will be used with other stations to look at depth and get some details as to why it happened,” Kelley said Tuesday.

“Earthquakes in this area are rare. That’s what makes them so interesting,” she said.

“A 5 [magnitude earthquake] is not that big,” she said. “It’s enough that you’d notice a rumble or a jiggle but there wouldn’t be huge amounts of damage. By the time you realize it’s happening, it’s pretty much over.”

Maine’s state geologist, Robert Mavinney, agreed.

“We know that region of Canada has small, frequent earthquakes,” he said. “A magnitude 5 like this one might happen a few times every decade,” he said. “When they have a 5 in California, they don’t even stop drinking their coffee.”

The tremors, which lasted about 30 seconds, rattled buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, as well as government offices across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec.

Kelley said that while it wasn’t clear why that area occasionally is struck by earthquakes, she did say that while Ottawa is not an area with tectonic plate activity, it does have some very old fault lines. Those weakened spots, when under pressure, can result in earthquakes.

Mavinney said Tuesday that the Maine residents who reported the activity they experienced to the USGS listed the intensity of what they felt as 2 and 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning no shaking felt and no damage and 10 meaning extreme shaking and very heavy damage.

“Usually there’s no damage until you get to a 5 or 6 on the intensity scale,” Mavinney said.

Associated Press writers and Bangor Daily News writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/06/23/news/mainers-feel-canadian-earthquake/ printed on September 17, 2014