A magnitude-4.1 earthquake centered in Delaware reverberated along the East Coast on Thursday afternoon — an unusual occurrence in the region that caught people from Virginia to New York off guard.
The U.S. Geological Survey placed the quake’s center about 6 miles northeast of Dover, Delaware.
A spokesman for the Dover Police Department said that as of about 5:30 p.m. the agency had not received any reports of property damage or injuries in connection with the quake.
The spokesman, Mark Hoffman, said that at his home about 3 miles south of the city, the shaking was enough to disturb Christmas lights and stockings, but not violent enough to scare his children.
“Everything seems to be status quo so far, so we’re thankful,” he said in a telephone interview. “So far it felt like we’ve escaped anything major.”
The USGS by about 6:15 p.m. had downgraded the shaking to “Intensity VI.” The prominent seismologist Lucy Jones warned on Twitter that that level of shaking “throws things off shelves and can damage poorly built structures.”
As of about 6 p.m., more than 6,500 people reported having felt it. Maps provided by the USGS indicated that light to weak shaking occurred as far south as Virginia and as far north as Connecticut. Most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains experiences earthquakes infrequently, the federal agency said.
Perhaps as a result, people along the East Coast took to Twitter on Thursday to express their shock and amazement.
“Ok so I’m not going crazy!” one woman in northern Delaware said.
“Still feeling seasick,” added a New Yorker. “Sure made our #Brooklyn building sway!”
Although earthquakes are less frequent east of the Rockies than in say, California, they do happen and can sometimes cause harm.
In 2011, for example, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake cracked the Washington Monument and damaged the National Cathedral. The Washington metropolitan area suffered mostly minor damage to homes, schools, office buildings and other businesses — but the shaking rattled nerves along the coast.