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Sparks

Whoa, Was That an Earthquake?

A 4.8 magnitude tremor just surprised East Coasters.

A seismograph.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

East Coast residents from Philadelphia to Boston all just looked up and went, “Did you just feel that?”

Yes, they did: A 4.8 magnitude earthquake struck Central New Jersey Friday morning — not strong enough to cause severe damage in most cases, and smaller than the 5.8 magnitude quake that struck the Washington, D.C., area in 2011 and rippled up north. But this one was certainly strong enough to feel.

Earlier this year, a tiny, 1.7 magnitude quake hit in New York’s Astoria neighborhood, causing little to no destruction. (Reports of a transformer explosion due to the quake turned out to be unfounded.) Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist for the U.S. Geological Survey, told The New York Times that actually, New York gets lots of tiny earthquakes each year. Earthquakes of this magnitude, however, are decidedly less common.

By contrast, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan on Wednesday, causing at least nine deaths and more than 1,000 reported injuries. The insurance damages are still being assessed but will no doubt reach into the billions. That quake also sent major shockwaves through the global computing chip supply chain, as the world’s largest chipmaker, TSMC, was forced to halt production and evacuate.

The immediate aftermath of the New Jersey quake produced no reports of severe damage, and New York Metro Weather reported that there was no tsunami risk anticipated. Airports in the region grounded flights to evaluate safety conditions. The event seemed mainly to have given Northeasterners an excuse to log into Twitter again for the first time in months.

For my part, sitting in my apartment in New York and trying to collect my bearings, the light fixture over the dining table suddenly looks askew. But to be honest, it’s probably been that way for a while.

Jillian Goodman profile image

Jillian Goodman

Jillian is Heatmap's deputy editor. Before that, she was opinion editor at The Information and deputy editor at Bloomberg Green.

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