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BANGOR, Maine — Residents from all over Maine and New England felt the effects of an earthquake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale with an epicenter in Hollis Center, Maine, on Tuesday evening.
“I literally thought my furnace was exploding,” said Portland resident and Brewer native Holly Barber, a guidance counselor at Lake Region High School in Naples. “I live in Deering Center on Pleasant Avenue, and I was right here in my room.”
The quake was centered 3 miles west of Hollis Center and 13 miles northwest of Biddeford, according to the United States Geological Survey, and was just over 4 miles deep. The service notes the quake occurred at 7:12 p.m. Tuesday.
Reports of the quake spread like wildfire through social media. A Facebook group created shortly after it struck, called “I survived the 10/16/12 earthquake,” was liked by more than 38,000 people by approximately 8:20 p.m. On Twitter, users reported feeling the tremors from around the state.
While there were no immediate reports of physical damage, some users reported problems with cellphone providers AT&T and Verizon Wireless and phone provider Time Warner after the quake.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
Spokespeople for AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless said their towers were not damaged.
Andrew Russell, manager of communications at Time Warner Cable, said “there were intermittent service outages after the quake” but service was back to normal late Tuesday night.
But high call volume may have caused problems with service, according to the AT&T spokeswoman.
“It’s very common to have congestion when a lot of people are trying to make calls or texts,” said Alexa Kaufman. “It’s very common in an event like this.”
The earthquake was initially reported at magnitude 4.5 by the USGS, was then upgraded to a magnitude 4.6 and then downgraded to a 4.0 by approximately 8:30 p.m.
Quakes that strong are rare in New England and in Maine, according to Dr. John Ebel, director of the Weston Observatory in Weston, Mass., and professor of geophysics at Boston College.
“A 4.0 centered in New England is something that’s once every three to five years,” Ebel told the Bangor Daily News.
Ebel said damage typically starts at a magnitude of 5.0.
“People near the epicenter would have heard loud noises and felt shaking for 15-20 seconds,” Ebel said. “It would not be impossible if objects were knocked off shelves in homes near the epicenter.”
According to the USGS, the largest earthquake in Maine was measured at 5.1 and struck in March 1904. It was felt in the Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and south along the East Coast to Connecticut.
In Dayton, Maine, the quake was mistaken for action in an ongoing standoff.
“Things were rattling and shaking. I thought there was an explosion going off. My neighbor came over all shook up. A picture had fallen off her wall,” said Ron Smith, owner of Goodwin’s Mills General Store in nearby Lyman, where media gathered during the standoff.
Unconfirmed Facebook and Twitter reports placed the earthquake’s effects as far away as Rhode Island. Twitter users reported the effects were felt in Acton, Alna, Auburn, Bangor, Brewer, Brunswick, Litchfield, Sanford, Searsport, South Portland, Stockton Springs, Portland, Westbrook and York, among other communities.
So what’s next?
“There could be some aftershocks,” Ebel said. “In 1988, there was a 4.7 in Quebec province and two days later they had a 5.9, but there’s a low likelihood of another quake like this or larger happening again.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.