Earthquake brings fear, fascination to New England

Some heard a loud bang. Others felt rolling vibrations. Still others thought it was a large truck, airplane, or helicopter.

The 4.0-magnitude earthquake that hit west of Hollis, Maine, at 7:12 p.m. Tuesday was different things to different people as it rumbled across New England.

“We heard it coming; it sounded like an airplane at treetop level,” Bill from Northborough wrote on the “Feel the Quake?” forum on “The quake probably only lasted about five seconds. It felt like it went up my driveway, under the kitchen, and out the back yard. It was pretty cool.”


The earthquake surprised residents who rarely experience the phenomenon. Fortunately, no real damage was reported.

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More than 7,000 people across Massachusetts, including people from 344 of the state’s 351 communities, submitted reports of feeling the quake to the US Geological Survey’s website. More than 500 people in Boston and 300 in Cambridge filed reports, according to the USGS. Hundreds of people also contributed accounts to

“I live in a house that’s over 100 years old; I’ve never felt any motion before,” Ashley Lieberman wrote. “The house is solid, but this evening I felt it sway and almost ran out of the house. It was very disconcerting. I live in Lexington on a high hill.”

Mary shared her experience from York, Maine, about 30 miles south of Hollis.

“At first, after feeling what seemed like a big bang, including a loud sound, I thought something in the neighborhood blew up or that a car hit the house, but then the house started shaking and I realized what was happening,” she wrote. “It was pretty scary! I was glad it discontinued after a few seconds. Hope I never feel one again.”


Dan B. from Newburyport said his house shook for five seconds and he first ran to check his furnace. “I thought it was a large low-flying helicopter,” he wrote. “It shook the nerves of my three children, all under 10 years old. We also have a calm dog who began to bark during the shake.”

Dr. John Ebel, director of the Weston Observatory and professor of geophysics at Boston ­College, said some people might have had items rattled off shelves, but he has not received any reports of real damage.

“I’ve not heard directly of any damage, and I would not expect any,” Ebel said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

East Coast quakes are farther-reaching because cold rock transmits seismic waves without absorbing seismic energy, he said. Waves die much faster on the West Coast because warmer rock absorbs ­energy.

Jason Johnson, deputy chief of the Hollis Fire Department, likened the experience to the tremors during a quarry blast.


“It almost felt like a boom, and you could hear it rumble, and then the ground kind of sunk underneath your feet,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there were no injuries.

Matt Carroll of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Melissa Werthmann
can be reached at melissa.