What to Know About the Earthquake That Hit Massachusetts on Sunday

The epicenter of the 3.6 magnitude earthquake was in Buzzards Bay, off the coast of New Bedford, according to the U.S. Geological Survey

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A 3.6 magnitude earthquake hit southern New England on Sunday, causing little serious damage but a rattling plenty of people's nerves.

The quake was first reported as magnitude 4.0, but later downgraded to 3.6. It struck just after 9 a.m. and was centered in Buzzards Bay, off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Here's a quick look at everything we know about the quake so far:

How common are earthquakes in New England?

Local seismologist Dr. Alan Kaftka said earthquakes happen on a regular basis here in New England, but this was the strongest one to strike the region in decades.

“There’s been something like nine earthquakes of that size in New England since the 1700s,” he said.

The last earthquake of its strength in this area was a magnitude 3.5 temblor hit in March 1976, said Paul Caruso, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist.

Kaftka said that doesn’t mean another earthquake will come, and it was way too small of an earthquake in too small of water to trigger tidal waves. 

“To make a tsunami it has to be under a large body of water like off the coast of Japan or something like that, and above magnitude 7,” he said.

How far away was it felt?

The quake hit at a depth of a little more than 9.3 miles and was felt across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and into Connecticut and Long Island, New York.

About 14,000 people went to the U.S. Geological Survey's website to report the earthquake, including people from Easthampton, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, both about 100 miles away, and several from more than 50 miles. That's not unusual in New England, Caruso said.

"It's common for them to be felt very far away because the rock here is old and continuous and transmits the energy a long way," he said. 

The quake was a shallow one, which enhances the possibility of minor damage and is likely felt across a larger area.


Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Numerous NBC10 Boston viewers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island reported feeling the tremors.

"Around 9:10 a.m. Sunday morning we felt what was an earthquake," viewer Greg Levanduski said. "It lasted about 20 seconds, started as a rumbling noise then the house started shaking."

In Westport, Sarah Lasher says she thought maybe her wood stove exploded, while her boyfriend thought maybe a bomb had gone off.

"It was a really big rumble," she said.

Liz Lahens lives in Webster, right on the Connecticut border, and said she felt the quake.

"It lasted several seconds and shook our bed at first then shook our whole house," she said. "Everyone at home felt it and we all got up out of bed to find each other immediately."

Police from all over New England were inundated with 911 calls, including reports of items falling off shelves and street signs getting uprooted.

Did it cause any damage?

On the earthquake magnitude scale, Sunday's is considered a "light" earthquake, which is often felt but only causes minor damage.

But there were some reports of damage across the region.

Chris Besse of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said there were no reports of injuries or major damage.

He said there was some structural damage to buildings in New Bedford, and urged anyone who felt the quake to check for similar damage in their homes and businesses.

Torry Gaucher of Cumberland, Rhode Island, said the quake caused a crack in his basement.

Following Sunday morning's earthquake, one question a lot of people are asking each other: Did you feel it? An overwhelming amount of New Englanders are saying yes, generating a ton of reaction on social media.

The Red Cross tweeted that it was helping 21 people, including children, who had been displaced from their New Bedford homes.

One neighborhood in New Bedford was hit particularly hard, with multiple families being displaced after chimneys collapsed in two separate apartment buildings.

One neighborhood in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was hit particularly hard by Sunday's earthquake. Multiple families were temporarily displaced after chimneys collapsed in two separate apartment buildings.
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