Exploring Unusual East Coast Earthquake

By Alice Maggiore

August 23, 2011 Updated Aug 23, 2011 at 10:03 PM EST

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Did you feel the ground shake this afternoon? A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Virginia was felt all up and down the east coast, including right here in the Twin Tiers. Action News reached out to Larry Brown, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, for more science on this east coast quake.

The epicenter of the earthquake struck about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, but the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building were evacuated in Washington, D.C. . In fact, ripples were felt from the White House to Martha's Vineyard where the President was vacationing.

According to a United States Geological Survey, the earthquake was about a half mile deep.

Cornell University says people came running to the science building to look at its seismograph machine, where a pen was going crazy on paper.

Brown says the earthquake left light to moderate damage in Virginia, such as dishes crashing to the floor.

But in the Twin Tiers, he says we shouldn't have felt anything more than the ground shaking. Still, Brown says a quake like this is unusual, and it teaches an important lesson about earthquakes on the east coast.

"Feeling an earthquake here is very, very unusual... Especially one this strong anywhere on the Eastern U.S. coast, especially in Ithaca. That alone generated interest and besides the fact that we got an excellent record in New York, something unusual to see," he says. "The lesson here in this earthquake is that with many earthquakes in the Eastern United States is that there is a class of earthquakes called intraplates that occur in tectonic plates, and move boundaries... Like in Japan or California --not in this area; there is no nearby plate boundaries...."

Brown says a seismograph works like a swinging gate system or a pendulum. The seismograph at Cornell University uses a pen and paper system -- the pen will swing to mark the activity on a piece of paper.

You may also take a look at the seismic activity from your computer as well. Brown target=”_blank”> recommends the USGS website.