Earlier today, an earthquake based out of Virginia sent tremors all the way from D.C. to New York, creating havoc as businesses evacuated and flooded the streets with panic.
While Virginia may not seem to be a likely hotspot for tectonic movement, a similar earthquake happened nearly a hundred years ago. In 1897, a 5.9 earthquake shook Virginia and, until now, remained the largest earthquake in the state’s history.
If Virginia is far from any near plate boundary, how can an earthquake of this magnitude come to be? According to the U.S. Geological Survey:
“Earthquakes everywhere occur on faults within bedrock, usually miles deep. Most bedrock beneath central Virginia was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent about 500-300 million years ago, raising the Appalachian Mountains.
Most of the rest of the bedrock formed when the supercontinent rifted apart about 200 million years ago to form what are now the northeastern U.S., the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe.
At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, often scientists can determine the name of the specific fault that is responsible for an earthquake. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case. The Central Virginia seismic zone is far from the nearest plate boundaries, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea.
The seismic zone is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few, if any, earthquakes in the seismic zone can be linked to named faults. It is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards in the seismic zone is the earthquakes themselves.”
We will have more details as they arrive.
Shocking footage of earthquake in real-time
[Source: NY Times]