, Salem, MA

October 17, 2012

Maine earthquake: Did you feel it?

By Neil H. Dempsey Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — The region was rumbling with talk of tremors after local residents felt the magnitude-4.0 earthquake that struck last night outside Hollis Center, Maine.

“It was exciting, but at the same time you’re like, ‘I actually heard the house move,’” said Jane Williams, a resident of Goodwin Road in Beverly who said she was at home watching television when the quake hit just after 7 p.m. “You hope nothing’s wrong.”

“I think every bottle in the store rattled,” said Gail LaPointe, shift manager at Cosgrove’s Liquors on Bridge Street in Salem. “I really thought that somebody had hit the building. ... I ran out to the parking lot.”

Authorities around the region reported a spike of emergency calls about the tremors but no actual damage or injuries stemming from them.

Though many people reported feeling the earthquake, just as many seemed to have missed out. Dale Murphy, manager of The Old Spot in Salem, said he didn’t feel it. Neither did Scott Froeschl, manager at Trader Joe’s in Peabody.

“We got word from our spouses,” Froeschl said.

Some people felt it only have to others in close proximity wonder what the fuss was about.

“I felt it in my chair, shaking back and forth,” said Sgt. Fred Ryan of the Salem police. “I asked two other people walking by — they didn’t feel it.”

“Some guests felt it, some guests didn’t,” said Dan Peppe, supervisor at the Comfort Inn in Danvers. Peppe said that, oddly enough, the guests who felt the tremors seemed to be the ones on the upper floors.

“I didn’t feel it, personally,” he added.

The earthquake was reportedly felt as far south as Connecticut. The U.S. Geological Survey at first estimated the 7:12 p.m. quake as a 4.6 magnitude, but later downgraded that to 4.0. The epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, was about 3 miles deep. That location is about 20 miles west of Portland.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The Seabrook Station nuclear plant, about 63 miles away in New Hampshire, declared an unusual event — the lowest of four emergency classifications, but said it was not affected. The plant has been offline for refueling.

“There has been no impact at all to the plant from the earthquake, and our refueling maintenance activities have not been affected,” said Alan Griffith, spokesman for Next EnergyEra Seabrook Station.

Earthquakes are rare in New England, but they’re not unheard of. In 2006, there was a series of earthquakes around Maine’s Acadia National Park, including one with a magnitude of 4.2 that caused boulders to fall from ledges onto Acadia National Park’s loop road. One of the park’s trails was closed for three years because of damage from the quake.

The strongest earthquake recorded in Maine occurred in 1904 in the Eastport area, near the state’s eastern border with Canada, according the Weston Observatory at Boston College. With a magnitude estimated at 5.7 to 5.9, it damaged chimneys and brick walls and could be felt in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

East Coast quakes are rarely strong enough to be felt over a wide area. A quake of magnitude 5.8 on Aug. 23, 2011, was centered in Virginia and felt all along the coast, including in New York City and Boston. Experts say the region’s geology can make the effects felt in an area up to 10 times larger than quakes of similar size on the West Coast.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.