When An Earthquake Strikes Close to Home

An earthquake whose magnitude was 4.8 at its epicenter rattles the region where this author resides.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

April 5, 2024

4 Min Read
Lebanon, NJ was close to earthquake epicenter.
This bucolic-looking area near Lebanon, NJ, was close to the epicenter of a 4.8-magnitude earthquake whose effects were felt throughout the Northeast U.S. dszc/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

At a Glance

  • An earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale struck the northeast U.S. Friday morning.
  • The quake's epicenter was in central New Jersey, but the effects were felt in neighboring states including New York.

It was a relatively quiet Friday morning in the New York City metropolitan area and I was pecking away at the keyboard in my home office, when I suddenly felt some rumbling from somewhere.  My spouse felt it also and I started checking around the house and the environs immediately outside to see what was going on. Fortunately I didn’t see any damage and immediately started checking online was thankfully power was on. I didn’t think so at the time, but I checked the U.S. Geological Survey site for earthquakes and saw there was a 4.8 magnitude quake that was centered in Lebanon, NJ, which is more than 60 miles from where I live.

We have been hit with an earthquake. A quick call to a neighbor confirmed the tremor, and then turned on the radio station (on an actual radio and not online). Within a few minutes, reports started streaming in that confirmed an earthquake had hit our area. The earthquake was felt in neighboring states including New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

While I was aware the USGS monitored earthquake activity, I have never spent much time on their site. The site is quite impressive, displaying the earthquake magnitudes in a wide radius from the epicenter in what is called a “shake map.” As it turned out, the quake magnitude at the monitoring station closest to where I live measured 3.5, which is not insignificant.

Related:Seattle Is Building an Earthquake-Proof Bridge with Smart Materials


Not the First Time

I do remember experiencing an earthquake several decades ago, when I was in Southern California listening to a technical conference presentation at the Anaheim Convention Center on a business trip. There was sudden shaking in the room and although no one panicked, those familiar with earthquakes calmly stated that a minor earthquake had occurred. I don’t recall seeing any damage.

Unlike regions such as California where many residents are familiar with earthquakes and buildings must meet stringent codes to withstand major tremors, earthquakes occur rarely in areas such as New York City. However, that doesn’t mean there is no seismic activity. 

A radio news report noted there is a fault in New Jersey, called the Ramapo fault, not far from the quake's epicenter. While the fault was not known to be particularly active, apparently there was an uptick in seismic activity near that fault that led to the quake. There is of course concern for aftershocks. A 2.0 aftershock occurred in Bedminster, NJ, though it was not felt in New York City.

Authorities Spring into Action

In a densely populated area such as New York City, there are many tall buildings and structures, many of them older and built before earthquake codes, so naturally, there is concern over structural damage. So far, there are no reports of major damage or injuries, but authorities have jumped into action out of caution. Bridges are now being inspected and reports note that structural inspections of buildings and transportation facilities will be stepped up over the weekend.

Related:Coconuts Inspire Materials to Make Earthquake-Proof Buildings 14396

You Can’t Predict Earthquakes

Improvements in areas such as sensors, along with the greater use of data and analytics, can better gauge the potential for earthquakes to happen. However, even the USGS, which makes it its business to monitor seismic activity, says bluntly on its site that earthquakes cannot be predicted.

The site states, “Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how at any time in the foreseeable future. USGS scientists can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur (shown on our hazard mapping) in a specific area within a certain number of years.”

While this may initially sound dire, it does present an opportunity to proactively prepare for future earthquakes. This can manifest itself at different levels, whether it be individuals and families developing procedures to deal with potential disasters, local and state authorities refining emergency response plans, to town planners and construction firms ensuring that both existing and new buildings can handle potential earthquakes.

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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