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Quake shakes area

August 24, 2011

Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake that rattled Virginia and much of the northern East Coast caused instruments at Wright State University-Lake Campus to jump Tuesday afternoon.
The quake struck shortly before 2 p.m. and its epicenter was near Mineral, Va., west of Richmond. The impact of the quake caused a monitoring station at the Lake Campus to jump and the Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) reported receiving numerous telephone calls regarding an earthquake. 
“That’s huge — that’s the biggest one since they’ve had recording instruments,” said Chuck Ciampaglio, associate professor of Geology at the Lake Campus. “This is crazy. This is big.”
The Lake Campus is part of a consortium that monitors seismic activity across the state. A monitor and screen allow the public to view the current data and Tuesday’s quake was clearly evident.
“This is a big one and it’s kind of weird because it’s right where the Piedmont of Virginia — the foothills — hits the coastal plain,” Ciampaglio said. “It’s a little further east that I would have expected it.”
Feeling quakes and tremors is not uncommon in this region of Ohio. Ciampaglio noted this region sits within an active zone along the Anna fault line.
“We do get earthquakes here and in fact they are quite concentrated here,” Ciampaglio said, “We had a 5.5 back in the ’80s in Anna, which is big.”
The quake in Virginia is unrelated to the fault that runs through Anna, but Ciampaglio said the quake in Virginia was considerably larger than the one that struck Anna.
Ciampaglio described tectonic activity in that part of the country as “an old wound.” While rare, he noted earthquakes and tremors are possible.
“You know how you get a scare and it heals up and two years later you bang it and it still hurts, think of it that way,” Ciampaglio said. “This is still an active zone, deep down inside and it could be reactivated at some point.”
While the quake happened 546 miles away, a similar event could occur in the region. He said residents should not dismiss that notion and should be cognizant of the potential for a local earthquake.
“Let’s see what kind of damage this did and I think people will probably be surprised,” Ciampaglio said. “A magnitude 6 on the East Coast is much more powerful than a magnitude 6 on the West Coast because of the makeup of the continental plate there. Once you go west of the Mississippi, a magnitude 6 in California wouldn’t be felt for more than a couple hundred miles, whereas this 5.9 is being reported up through Manhattan and we are feeling it out here. When earthquakes happen out here, the motions transmit differently than when they happen west of the Mississippi.”
Dr. David Dominic, chair of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Wright State University in Fairborn, confirmed the earthquake immediately after the tremor was felt in the area.
Dominic noted the type of earthquake we felt was of a less frequent variety.
“This was what is referred to as an intraplate earthquake,” Dominic said.
Dominic said that the more frequent earthquakes such as those in California are generally interplate quakes, or quakes that occur on a plate boundary.
However, intraplate often can cause notable damage because of their unpredictability.
They typically happen in areas that are unprepared because quakes are rare and buildings are not accustomed are not retrofitted. This tremor occurred as a result of the North American Tectonic Plate, which covers most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, and parts of Siberia, Japan and Iceland.
Making the quake exceptionally rare was the fact that a 5.3 magnitude intraplate earthquake occurred the day before with its epicenter in Trinidad, Colorado. There has not been a damaging intraplate earthquake in the United States since Charleston, S.C. in 1886.
Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson fielded calls from residents regarding the quake and told many of them the earthquake was not local. 
“We are telling them it’s OK,” Anderson said. “We are telling them yes there was one but it wasn’t here. We are also hearing the cell phones aren’t working and when something big like this happens, we are seeing that they are not able to handle the amount of calls coming in.”
Anderson said he has not received any reports of damage from local residents related to the quake.

Staff Writer Lance Mihm contributed to this story.

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