Friday, May 28, 2010

Historic Earthquakes: Washington D.C.

On March 9, 1828, an earthquake, centered in southwestern Virginia, attracted the attention of President John Quincy Adams as it rattled windows in Washington. President Adams reported the tremor felt like the heaving of a ship at sea. In March 1918, an earthquake emanating from the Shenandoah Valley broke windows in Washington and rippled over Northern Virginia. The tremor caused a terrifying noise and was commented upon by President Wilson at the White House. A White House staffer called a newspaper office to learn the cause of the terrifying noise.

Since 1977, Virginia has experienced some two hundred earthquakes, most of them small.Virginia is considered to be at moderate risk, with a ten to twenty percent chance of experiencing a 4.75 Richter scale quake. Quakes over 4.5 on the Richter scale topple buildings. Virginias’ most severe earthquake (5.8 on the Richter scale) occurred on May 31, 1897 in Pearisburg, the county seat of Giles County, in southwest Virginia. Closer to home, small earthquakes have startled local citizens. On September 29, 1997 a 2.5 Richter scale earthquake struck Manassas. One local resident reported he was "shaken, not stirred" after hearing what sounded like an unusually large sonic boom. On May 6, 2008 a so called “micro-earthquake” (magnitude 1.8) struck Annandale. Approximately one thousand micro-earthquakes occur everyday throughout the world and are only noticed if they hit high population density areas where they are most often noticed by people living in high rise buildings.

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