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New York City earthquakes are unusual, but not unheard of

Talia Lakritz   

New York City earthquakes are unusual, but not unheard of
  • New York City experienced an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 4.8 on Friday.
  • Eighteen quakes with 2.4-plus magnitudes have occurred in or near NYC since 1737, records show.

On Friday, residents across New York City's five boroughs and the tristate area experienced a rare earthquake.

With an estimated magnitude of 4.8, the quake's epicenter was located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Other cities along the East Coast, including Philadelphia and Boston, also reported feeling the ground shake.

Though unusual, earthquakes have been documented in New York City for centuries

New York City's history of recorded seismic activity dates back to the 1700s.

Before Friday's quake, data from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University showed that 18 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.4 or higher have occurred in or around New York City since 1737.

In 1884, the tremors from a 5.2-magnitude quake in New York City were felt from Virginia to Maine, though no major structural damage was reported, news reports said at the time.

More recently, a 2.4-magnitude quake shook parts of Queens and Manhattan's east side in January 2001, and midtown Manhattan was the center of a 2.6-magnitude earthquake in October of that year.

The largest earthquakes in NYC history

The largest-ever earthquakes to rattle New York City both had magnitudes of 5.8.

The first — which struck Massena, New York, a town near the Canadian border — affected the city in 1944.

A 5.8-magnitude quake also hit Louisa County, Virginia, — near Richmond, the state's capital — in 2011. This one was felt in New York City, too.

It was likely the most widely felt earthquake in US history due to the population density of the East Coast, the USGS said.

Correction: April 5, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated the magnitude of the 2011 Virginia earthquake. It had a magnitude of 5.8, not 5.9.