Widespread Earthquake Rattles Northeast Quadrant
The Associated Press
Nov. 26, 1988
Undated (AP) _ An earthquake rattled eastern Canada and the northeast quadrant of the United States on Friday, but there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.
The epicenter of the 6:46 p.m. EST quake was 90 miles north of Quebec City, Canada, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 on the Richter scale of ground motion, said U.S. Geological Survey spokesman Don Finley in Washington, D.C.
The quake knocked out power in Montreal and elsewhere in the province of Quebec. Canadian Press reported that the quake lasted about 15 to 20 seconds, and also was felt in Ottawa, Toronto and Quebec City.
A foreshock recorded Wednesday had a Richter magnitude of 4.5, Finley said.
In the United States, the quake was felt from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast, with tremors reported in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
There were no reports of damage to U.S. power plants, transmission lines, dams, and telephone lines.
''It was widely felt and the north-central and northeastern regions'' of the United States, said Arch Johnston, director of the Center for Earthquake Research at Memphis State University in Tennessee. ''Some reported feeling it as far south as Washington, D.C.''
Police, firefighters, radio and television stations were deluged with calls, officials said. Houses shook, ceilings cracked, dishes fell from shelves and windows rattled in the Northeast.
In New York City, firefighters went to 40 locations where there were reports of tremors but no damage could be found, said fire Lt. Kenneth Murphy.
In the central Vermont community of Berlin, a chimney collapsed but there were no injuries reported.
In Maine, the quake broke windows and knocked pictures off walls. However, the Secret Service in Kennebunkport, said the quake was not felt at the weekend home of President-elect George Bush and his wife, Barbara.
The quake rattled Boston's Top of the Hub restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center while about 120 people were dining, said maitre d' Stephen Brown. ''It was enough to make you feel queasy,'' he said.
''The entire dining room felt it. Everyone felt they were becoming dizzy or faint. They all sort of smiled and looked at each other. No one felt panicked or anything,'' he said.
There were scattered reports of temporarily dead telephones in New Hampshire and Vermont, but New England Telephone spokesman Paul Hardiman said outages could have been caused by the too many callers jamming local exchanges.
''Effectively what they're doing is jamming the whole network,'' he said. ''Some switching machines, especially in smaller offices, will deny dial tone.'' Hardiman said he had no reports of widespread telephone outages.
Canadian Press said the tremor was felt all over the island of Montreal, along the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence River as well as in the Laurentians and Quebec City.
Traffic lights were out throughout Montreal, and there was no electricity in major hotels and Montreal's central train station. Telephone lines are also down around the island.
Michel Morin of Jonquiere, where the quake was quite severe, said the quake happened very quickly. ''I was in a store and things fell of the shelves,'' he said. ''People ran out of their houses and their telephones and power was gone.''
''I was sitting watching TV and all at once I started feeling dizzy,'' said Roy Tabikha of Cambridge, Mass. ''I thought there was something wrong with me, then I realized everything was shaking.''
Tabikha said he filled a glass with water and watched it vibrate. He said the shaking lasted about 15 seconds.
''We ran out of our house. Our lampshade was shaking. We were shaking,'' said Carol Dalessandro, 40, a travel agent in Wakefield, Mass.
In Pennsylvania, the tremors rattled windows on the sixth floor of Erie's Hamot Medical Center and in the control tower of Erie International Airport, four floors above ground level.
''One lady called us and said she had whitecaps in her fish tank and her chandelier was shaking,'' said Cpl. Clifford Williams of the Pennsylvania State Police.
The Richter scale is a measure of ground motion as recorded on seismographs. Every increase of one number means a tenfold increase in magnitude. Thus a reading of 7.5 reflects an earthquake 10 times stronger than one of 6.5.
An earthquake of 3.5 on the Richter scale can cause slight damage in the local area, 4 moderate damage, 5 considerable damage, 6 severe damage. A 7 reading is a ''major'' earthquake, capable of widespread heavy damage; 8 is a ''great'' quake, capable of tremendous damage.
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which occurred before the Richter scale was devised, has been estimated at 8.3 on the Richter scale.
Seismologists consider a magnitude-6 earthquake to be a moderate jolt, even though such a quake can cause severe damage in populated areas that lack modern building codes.
Because the Earth's crust is much older, cooler and more brittle east of the Rockies than in the West, eastern quakes tend to be felt over areas 10 times larger than in the West, where complicated geology also interferes with seismic waves as they travel through the ground.
''We have had earthquakes up there before, said Waverly Person, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center at Golden, Colo. ''In 1925 there was a quake in the area with a magnitude of 7.''
Bruce Presgrave, a geophysicist with the Survey, said aftershocks could shake the area for weeks.
''This is what we would call an intra-plate or within the plate earthquake,'' Presgrave said, ''which is an earthquake in the North American plate as opposed to one along plate boundaries such as the San Andreas Fault.''