Canadian earthquake felt in Maryland

Randy Lancaster was at his desk when the computer monitor began to wobble and the floor of his Bowie office building started to sway. He and his colleagues jumped from their seats, scanning hallways and peering out fourth-floor windows.

They suspected furniture movers or high winds, but the cause was more unusual: an earthquake. Had they known, Lancaster said, the group of ITT Corp. engineers "probably would have run out of the building."


Lancaster was among the many Marylanders to report feeling the effects of a 5.0-magnitude quake with an epicenter near Ottawa that sent shockwaves along the East Coast on Wednesday.

The quake struck at 1:41 p.m, and the temblor was felt in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and several other states, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. No injuries or damage was reported locally.


The effects could be felt 600 miles away in the Baltimore region because of the features of the terrain of the East Coast, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the USGS's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

Tremors are carried through the rigid rock crests of the region, he said, and it was possible that Marylanders experienced more than half the force generated by the quake. People who felt the quake, including several from Maryland, flooded an agency website that asks users to share their stories.

"A magnitude 5.0 is 1,000 times more energy than a magnitude 3.0," Blakeman said. "I definitely would give credit to those reports."

Based on information provided by Marylanders, the impact of the quake locally was classified as a 3 on the Modified Mercalli Intensity ranking system that categorizes effects on a scale ranging from 1 (no impact felt) to 12 (near total damage with objects tossed in the air). A 3 ranking is the equivalent to a truck's passing and can be felt more on upper floors of buildings.

Hillary Crystal of Owings Mills said she was the only person to feel the tremors in her office on Kenilworth Avenue in Towson. She said she thought she was growing ill until news reports confirmed her suspicion that the rumblings in her stomach were caused by the quake.

"I was sitting at my desk, and at first I felt like I was a little dizzy, like my equilibrium was off," Crystal said. "When I heard somebody else say it was an earthquake, I said, 'OK, I'm not crazy.' "

Rebecca Teaff of Towson said she felt the tremors during her acupuncture appointment in Towson. "I thought it was more refreshing than usual," Teaff said. "It was funny. I told my acupuncturist afterward that I felt more energized."

In the Canadian capital, 33 miles from the epicenter, Sen. Lowell Murray said that the huge chandeliers in the upper chamber of Parliament began swaying during a debate on energy issues.


"Initially we thought it might have been an airplane crashing into the building," Murray said. "But we were standing around wondering what was going on. And I quickly realized it was an earthquake. And then everybody started shouting, 'Out, out, out.' "

New York City officials said police received emergency calls from all over the city about shaking buildings, but there were no reports of damage.

Quake activity in the Mid-Atlantic is relatively mild, and it is not unprecedented for an earthquake based in Canada to be felt here. A September 1944 earthquake in the St. Lawrence River region reached Maryland and Pennsylvania, according to the USGS.

In November 1935, an earthquake near Timiskaming was felt in Chestertown at a 4.0 magnitude, and Annapolis, Baltimore, Bel Air, Cumberland, Frederick, Hancock, Havre De Grace, Laurel, and Westminster at an intensity of 3.0 magnitude or lower, according to a USGS Maryland earthquake history report. A 7.0 earthquake that hit near the St. Lawrence Bay River region of Canada in February 1925 was felt slightly in Baltimore.

Brenda Spiker of Dundalk said she felt the trembles in her Roseland office building and thought it was a heavy walker or a bus going by. Next time she feels her chair shaking, she said, she hopes it will be one of the two.

"This is my first time feeling an earthquake," she said. "And if I don't feel another one for the rest of my life, that will be OK by me."


The Associated Press contributed to this article.