The 4.4-magnitude earthquake recorded Friday morning by the U.S. Geological Survey and Natural Resources Canada occurred in a forested region of southwestern Quebec, an area of smaller communities about an hour’s drive from the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
Yet it rattled millions of people on both sides of the border, earthquake experts in Ottawa and Buffalo said. Actress Rosie O’Donnell was among them.
“Visiting western NY – FELT AN EARTHQUAKE THIS AM !!! Mish thought i was nutso -- but 4.5 in Ottawa,” the TV personality posted on her official Twitter account.
Mish is apparently a reference to O’Donnell’s wife, Michelle Rounds. When a Buffalo News reporter asked O’Donnell on Twitter what brought her to this area, she replied, “Looking at colleges” – likely for her son, Parker, who turns 18 next week, according to “People” magazine.
Seismologist John Adams of Natural Resources Canada described the earthquake as “reasonably memorable” during a phone interview from his office in Ottawa.
“It shook millions of people up living in Ontario, New York and Quebec,” said Adams, who has worked at the ministry for 30 years. “It also reminds you that earthquakes can happen here, and like all natural disasters, you probably should be thinking how you would prepare for it and react to it.”
The earthquake was reported at 9:43 a.m. 13 miles northeast of Shawville, Quebec. A 3.6-magnitude aftershock was reported 10 minutes later by the U.S. Geological Survey.
“I’m surprised a 4.4-magnitude quake was felt to this degree in Western New York,” said Mark Castner, director of the Braun-Ruddick Seismograph Station at Canisius College. “The area with the most reports was upstate New York in the northern Adirondacks and over to the Thousand Island region. There was also a lot of people reporting from Syracuse to Buffalo, through the Finger Lakes and down to the Pennsylvania border.”
To reach the Buffalo Niagara region, the waves traveled under Lake Ontario, which at its deepest point is about 820 feet deep, said Joseph Atkinson, a professor in the University at Buffalo’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. Atkinson said the seismic waves are unlikely to have an impact on the lake.
Initial reports from Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. scientists reported the magnitude of Friday’s earthquake as more than 5. Experts explained that earthquake magnitudes are adjusted as more data is collected from various seismographic stations.
No injuries or property damage was reported on either side of the border.
“For the immediate future we expect to have aftershocks,” Adams said in Ottawa. “The main shock changes the stress in the earth and the earth needs time to respond.”
This earthquake reminded many area residents of the June 23, 2010, 5.0-magnitude quake that also originated near Ottawa, where some buildings sustained damage. People from as far away as Buffalo, Cleveland and Michigan reported feeling it.
Strong earthquakes in Canada are rare, Adams said, and there is some indication that Friday’s quake is related to the one nearly three years ago.
“There is no indication they are on the same fault, but they are certainly in the same seismic zone so they’re kind of related,” he said.
In August 2011, the Buffalo Niagara region felt the ripple effects of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Richmond, Va., that shook much of the East Coast.
One expert pointed to a number of factors when asked why earthquakes are felt hundreds of miles from their epicenter. Friday’s, for example, occurred 220 miles away from Buffalo,
Don Goralski, chief of staff at UB’s earthquake engineering research center, said, “Quakes are felt over larger distances in the East because here the crust of the earth is solid. Energy transmits more rapidly through a solid rather than a fractured crust. This type of earthquake on the West Coast would be felt over a shorter distance.”
Alisha Jauch, of Pendleton, is a married mother of five working out of her home as a hairstylist. Jauch was cutting a client’s hair when the phone rang, she said. The time, according to her phone, was 9:44 a.m. That’s when she felt the earth move.
“I stopped in the middle of the conversation,” said the California transplant. “I have felt other earthquakes. I was leaning against my clothes dryer and felt it moving. I thought that was odd because I wasn’t drying anything. And then I could feel the whole house glide. It wasn’t shaking; it was gliding.
“It was pretty surreal; I was pretty excited,” she said. “It was a familiar feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time.”.
News Business Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report.