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Earthquake Shakes Albany

By Mattie Fitzpatrick | April 15, 2023

The East Coast was hit with a 4.8 magnitude earthquake originating from a fault line over Lebanon, New Jersey. The earthquake, which occurred on April 5 at 10:23, was right over the Ramapo Fault which stems from the Appalachian Mountains. 

Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.

The Ramapo Fault forms the boundary between the Newark Basin and the Highlands, running from Haverstaw New York to the area around Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania. This is the longest fault line in the Northeast and the earthquake was the largest earthquake felt in New York City in more than 100 years, with the last 5.0 earthquake occurring in 1884

Earthquakes have occurred before in New York, although they are far less frequent to their West Coast counterparts. The most recent earthquake, barring April 5’s seismic event, was Jan. 2, 2024, when a 1.7 magnitude earthquake was reported to have been felt in Astoria, Queens. 

This earthquake was of an entirely different magnitude however, with tremors being felt as far as Philadelphia, Boston, and even Baltimore, which is roughly 200 miles from New York City, and 317 miles from Lebanon, New Jersey where the tremors originated. 

According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, as much as 75% of the US could experience potentially damaging earthquakes and intense ground shaking. Although earthquakes cannot be predicted, the USGS created a map of the United States that shows that New York has between less than 5% or 25% of having a damaging earthquake in 100 years (figured below).

National Seismic Hazard Model (2023). Map displays the likelihood of damaging earthquake shaking in the United States over the next 100 years.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

After the initial foreshock of the earthquake, there were a number of aftershocks which consisted of smaller earthquakes in roughly the same area as the foreshock. According to one report, there were at least fifty aftershocks recorded by the USGS and they are now installing five new seismometers a few miles from the sites of the quake to monitor future rumblings.

One research geologist, Oliver Boyd, at the USGS said, “With the new data, we should definitely be able to see what fault these earthquakes are occurring on. Whether it’s a mapped fault or not, it’s hard to say. They’ll give us a picture of what the fault network looks like, and if it happens to cause a larger earthquake, we’ll have instruments in the area to capture that.”

Students at UAlbany who felt the earthquake were shaken by this seismic event. When asked his thoughts during the earthquake, UAlbany Senior Chris Anderson said, “‘Am I hallucinating’ and then I looked at my jug of water that was shaking and that was it.”

Junior Zuhayr Bin Badrul Nizar agreed, saying “At first, I thought it was just some really strong winds due to the wind howling from outside and we live in NY, so your first instinct isn’t really “Oh, it’s an earthquake!’ It was only a few minutes later that I realized what it was. Frankly, if it was more dangerous, I don’t think I know what I should’ve done at that moment.”

To learn more about what to do in the event of an earthquake, read the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s earthquake safety tips.


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