Virginia's Seismic History

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Earl Wilson sent in this video from his security camera in Dale City, Va. (Published Tuesday, Aug 23, 2011)

    Virginia is hardly the San Andreas Fault, but the area does have a long recorded history of seismic activity, stretching back before the United States was even a country.

    On February 21, 1774, a strong earthquake shook Richmond, Fredericksburg, and points south all the way into North Carolina.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some buildings around the Commonwealth were rocked off their foundations, and the quake "terrified the inhabitants greatly."

    Several strong quakes occurred throughout the 19th century, and in 1897, the Commonwealth experienced an event that equaled the earthquake felt on August 23.  That quake started in Giles County, and tremors were reported from Pennsylvania to Georgia.

    According to the USGS, earthquakes on the East Coast are not as frequent as on the West Coast, but when they do occur, the effects are felt across a broader area.

    Although an earthquake of today's magnitude is unusual, smaller tremors are not uncommon, taking place periodically throughout the year.  On October 30 of 2010, a small quake registering 2.1 caused a shudder in Virginia.

    Across all of the United States, there have been 2,793 earthquakes in 2011, 31 of which have been between 5.0 and 5.9 on the scale.