Weston Observatory Reacts to Earthquake

It was a busy day for the seismologists and staff over at the geological observatory.

The biggest disappointment over at the yesterday, in the aftermath of the Virginia earthquake?

Nobody at the observatory actually felt anything.

"Nobody felt it!" said seismologist Alan Kafka, ruefully reflecting on the jam-packed day at the geological observatory tucked in the woods of Weston.

"I was disappointed," said Kafka, who was at home in Easton at the time of the earthquake. He didn't feel it there, either.

The earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, played out pretty much the way that scientific models have shown such an earthquake would, said Kafka.

"Scientifically, we're not surprised" about where the earthquake was felt, he said. 

Because the crust and rocks on the East Coast of the United States are older and more solid than those on the West Coast, the effects could be felt from just south of Atlanta all the way to Maine. The solidity of the rocks allows for the waves to travel more efficiently, which doesn't happen on the West Coast, where there are more plates mashing up against each other, said Kafka.

However, the fact that such a relatively large earthquake hit the East Coast was, said Kafka, "astounding."

The last such quake to affect the area was in 1897, when a 5.9 earthquake hit Virginia in a very similar fashion. And before that, there was a 6.6 in Missouri in 1895 and something around 5.8 just off the coast of Boston in 1755, said Kafka.

The observatory itself was busy with interviews, collecting data and general excitement and activity on Tuesday, said Kafka.

"It was crazy," he said.

In addition to the initial earthquake, the machines at the observatory also recorded a 5.3 aftershock at about 2 p.m. and a 4.2 at about 8 p.m., said Kafka.


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