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‘Pretty rare’: A 2.6-magnitude earthquake felt in Baltimore

A 2.6-magnitude earthquake rippled through the greater Baltimore area Friday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed.

The quake’s epicenter was in Lorraine Park Cemetery in Woodlawn — 7 miles from the center of Baltimore City — and happened around 3:40 p.m., said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the federal geological agency.

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“It’s pretty rare,” he said.

If there are aftershocks, which is unlikely, “they’ll be very small,” Caruso said.

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The United States Geological Survey confirmed a 2.6 magnitude earthquake on Friday afternoon just outside of Baltimore.
The United States Geological Survey confirmed a 2.6 magnitude earthquake on Friday afternoon just outside of Baltimore. (USGS/Handout)

No damage or injuries have been reported in either Baltimore or Baltimore County, nor around the earthquake’s epicenter, officials said. The cemetery is located between Windsor Mill and Dogwood roads inside the Beltway.

”Some people felt it, but we don’t have any report of any injuries,” said Chief Roman Clark, city fire department spokesman.

The earthquake rumbled through the Catonsville/Woodlawn area, Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

Baltimore County Emergency Management Department Chief David Bycoffe said he received a flurry of calls from partner agencies after the ground shook.

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”Right now we have no reports of damage in the community, but we do have our first responders available and assessing the area,” he said.

People inside the Baltimore County Public Library’s Catonsville Branch turned toward the front windows to see whether the rumble they felt was from a passing truck on Frederick Road, said Jill Russell, the library’s assistant circulation manager. Russell described the general reaction inside the library as more confusion than fear.

”We felt it for the briefest of moments,” she said. “We were actually wondering if it was a mechanical thing more than an earthquake. It was quite minor.”

Nearby at Bill’s Music House, a family-owned instrument retailer in downtown Catonsville, the whole store froze when the earthquake struck, said general manager Brian Higgins.

He thought something might’ve fallen onto the roof.

The quake was “instantaneous,” over nearly as soon as it started, and didn’t shake any of the rows of guitars or other instruments on the walls, he said.

He looked around the building for any signs of damage, but didn’t find any, and people at State Fare, the restaurant across Frederick Road, told him they hadn’t felt it.

”It was quick but intense there for a second or two,” Higgins said. “I don’t know how you couldn’t’ve felt it across the street.”

Jamie Reese, a Bill’s Music manager, thought it sounded like a collision or an air-conditioning unit falling from a window.

“We felt it, but we didn’t know what was happening,” she said.

At Objects Found, the vibration from the earthquake shook the building, said Kendal Thomson, a part-time employee who was inside the Egges Lane antique and consignment shop with two of her coworkers at the time.

”We thought a truck ran into the building, actually,” she said.

Richard Ortt, director of the Maryland Geological Survey, said no damage is expected from the earthquake, which he said felt like “3-10 seconds worth of dump trucks going across your street.”

In buildings where occupants felt it the most, “some pictures might have shaken on the wall,” he said.

The 2.6-magnitude could be adjusted as more research is done, and a light aftershock is possible in the next 24 hours, Ortt said.

Maryland “routinely” sees tremors up to a magnitude of 2, Ortt said, but not in the Woodlawn area.

Much of the state’s seismic activity is felt near Columbia, where “there is elevated activity or seismicity ... which is still very low,” he said.

Nearly 600 people had reported the tremors to USGS as of 5:40 p.m.

Among the strongest Maryland earthquakes on official record are a 3.6-magnitude quake in July 2010 in Germantown that was felt by as many as 3 million people in the region and a 3.1-magnitude tremor in 1978 near Hancock in Washington County.

A 5.8 magnitude quake, centered 35 miles northwest of Richmond, Va., in 2011, was one of the strongest ever felt in the state.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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