4.1-magnitude earthquake rattles DC area

WASHINGTON — An earthquake reported near Dover, Delaware, rattled the D.C. area Thursday afternoon.

The US Geological Survey said a 4.1-magnitude quake struck just after 4:45 p.m. Thursday, and was centered about 6 miles (10 kilometers) east-northeast of Dover, Delaware. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

“They’re not as rare as you think, I mean there’s actually been a fair number of pretty good-sized earthquakes on the East Coast,” Thomas Pratt, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia, said.

Pratt said that Thursday’s earthquake is unique because it didn’t happen on the edge of the plate in the Atlantic Ocean, like most East Coast earthquakes.

“Normally it’s the edges of the plate that light up with the earthquakes, like the Ring of Fire around the Pacific,” Pratt said.

The quake was felt as far away as Baltimore. People from Anne Arundel County, Maryland, to Fairfax, Virginia, reported to WTOP that they felt the quake.

In Sterling, Virginia, Kate Raby said “it felt like an elephant was running behind the couch.”

Rosa Mintz-Urquhart in Silver Spring, Maryland, said it felt like something pushed up against her house.

“I felt like a commotion, I was thinking ‘did someone drive into my house?'” she said.

Maggie Hayford said she felt a “baby earthquake” at her office building in Fairfax.

“I was working at my desk which started to shake all on its own for 3 seconds, then subsided. My colleagues in the surrounding offices felt the same tremors,” Hayford said in an email to WTOP.

The quake jolted downtown Dover, sending lawmakers and workers in the statehouse outdoors to see what happened. Police and emergency officials did not have any immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Paul Caruso is a geophysicist with the USGS’s earthquake information center in Colorado. He said the quake was widely felt around the Mid-Atlantic region. Caruso said he didn’t expect any significant damage, given the small size of the quake.

Pratt said this quake was two points down from the 2011 D.C. quake, and  it is more likely to have knocked books off shelves than done damage to buildings, unless the building was already in bad shape.

There were no reports of any damage to D.C.’s numerous monuments and structures, said National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst. Out of an abundance of caution, Litterst said the park service will do any necessary inspections to make sure there’s no damage.

A 2011 earthquake that the D.C.-area felt brought tremors and extensive damage to two of the area’s most iconic landmarks — the Washington National Cathedral and the Washington Monument, with repair costs in the millions.

People who felt Thursday’s earthquake can help scientists study it, by telling the USGS what they experienced during the quake.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Megan Cloherty, Kristi King and Mike Murillo contributed to this report from Washington.


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