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Dave Epstein

Many people felt this morning’s earthquake in the Northeast, but such quakes are rare

According the USGS, the earthquake on Nov. 8th was felt in at least four states.USGS

Just after 9 a.m. this morning, I got a text from a friend of mine asking if there had just been an earthquake.

A text about Sunday's morning's earthquake.Dave Epstein

You might have had the same thought or feeling, or you may have even heard a loud noise. But you may have put those ideas aside as nonsense because we live in New England, and why would there be an earthquake? But a earthquake did indeed strike off the coast of New Bedford this morning around 9:10 a.m. The US Geological Survey initially measured it at 4.2 but later Sunday morning said it was a 3.6.

An earthquake Sunday morning was on Long Island and Southern New England.USGS data (CUSTOM_CREDIT)

This quake was strong enough to make some noise and rattle some buildings, and it was one of the stronger earthquakes here in Southern New England in many years. It won’t be surprising if cracks are found in buildings once things are surveyed.


New England sees small earthquakes somewhat regularly. There was one in July off Wood’s Hole, but only a 2.6, so it went mostly unnoticed. Larger ones where a lot of us feel it are pretty atypical and rare.

But a map from the US Geological Survey shows that a wide area, from Long Island and into Central and Eastern Massachusetts, felt this morning’s quake.

The Weston Observatory website shows past earthquakes in the Northeast. You have to go back hundreds of years to find a really big one. On Nov. 18th, 1755, an estimated 6.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Cape Ann, damaging as many as 1,500 buildings. That quake was was felt from Nova Scotia to Maryland and even on ships offshore.

Earthquakes in New England don’t occur for the same reason as those out west. Rather, our earthquakes are intraplate quake that happen in the middle of a tectonic plate rather than where plates meet. Intraplate quakes may be part of ancient continental rifts or Mesozoic rifts. Geologists continue to study these phenomena.


Large earthquakes are rare in the Northeast but they do happen.Weston Observatory

In California, you can find people who will tell you it feels like earthquake weather. While this weekend’s warmth is completely unrelated to this morning’s earthquake, today’s seismic event is just one more thing we can add to the growing list of really unusual occurrences in 2020.