Earthquake shakes New Jersey, causing tremors in Maryland but no major damage – Baltimore Sun


A magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck New Jersey on Friday morning and shook parts of Maryland and other surrounding states, but did not cause major damage.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck at 10:23 a.m. near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Online reports from the public suggested the quake was clearly felt in nearby New York City and along the East Coast. Citizens reported feeling the quake in Baltimore and Annapolis, as well as on the East Coast and in Washington, DC

The Maryland Department of Emergency Management said Friday afternoon that the impact of the quake appeared “minimal” in Maryland, but dishes rattled and desks shook in some homes and offices across the state, making residents sit up and take notice. Emergency responders in Baltimore and several surrounding counties said they had received no reports of damage.

A magnitude 4.8 quake “would not be large enough to cause damage, other than lighting effects in the immediate epicentral region,” the Geological Survey said in a tweet. “It is large enough to be felt particularly strongly in the east, where earthquake tremors propagate through the Earth's crust more efficiently than in the west.”

Still, the earthquake caused some disruption as officials assessed key infrastructure such as railroads and airfields for damage.

The quake came just over a week after the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed, hours before the arrival of President Joe Biden, who came to Baltimore to survey the rubble and meet with the families of the six victims. A spokesman for the bridge information center said they were not aware of any impact the quake would have on recovery efforts.

Some flights to airports on the East Coast, including Newark, were diverted or delayed due to inspections. At BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, officials inspected the airfield and air traffic control tower and found no damage, spokesman Jonathan Dean said in a statement.

Amtrak took precautions, including speed limits on trains, while it inspected tracks throughout the Northeast, spokeswoman Beth Toll said. Normal operations resumed late Friday afternoon.

In Baltimore, a seismometer on the Johns Hopkins University campus recorded ground shaking “at a fraction of a millimeter per second” during the earthquake, said Benjamin Fernando, a seismologist at the university. Although it doesn't sound like much, this type of vibration is easily noticeable, he said.

“It's definitely strong enough that you would probably notice the ground shaking, you might even notice your house shaking,” he said.

The Hopkins seismometer detected the quake for about two minutes, with a peak amplitude around 10:24 a.m., Fernando said. Around Baltimore, farther from the epicenter, there could be big differences in the magnitude of the quake. For example, areas with bedrock tend to feel less shaking than areas with softer sediments.

In midtown Manhattan, the usual cacophony of traffic grew louder during the quake as drivers honked their horns on briefly shaking streets. Traffic through the Holland Tunnel between Jersey City, New Jersey and Lower Manhattan was stopped for about 10 minutes for inspections, the Port Authority of New York and Jersey said.

There are no signs of major safety or infrastructure problems in New York City due to the earthquake, said Mayor Eric Adams, who said he did not feel the quake himself. City Buildings Commissioner James Oddo said officials would monitor for any delayed cracks or other impacts on the Big Apple's 1.1 million buildings.

The tremors brought back memories of August 23, 2011, when an earthquake shook Baltimore and tens of millions of people from Georgia to Canada. With a magnitude of 5.8, it was the strongest earthquake on the East Coast since World War II. The epicenter was in Virginia.

That earthquake left cracks in the Washington Monument, triggered the evacuation of the White House and Capitol and shook New Yorkers three weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Earthquakes are less common on this side of the United States because the East Coast does not lie on a tectonic plate boundary. But earthquakes on the East Coast can still have violent impacts – their rocks are better able to distribute earthquake energy over long distances.

“If we had a quake of the same magnitude in California, it probably wouldn't be felt nearly as far away,” said USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.