Earthquake felt in D.C. suburbs, startling residents

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JANUARY 2, 2023

Earthquake felt in D.C. suburbs, startling residents.

A small earthquake occurred near Rockville, Md., early Tuesday, and within an hour, hundreds of people in Maryland’s suburbs, the District and Northern Virginia reported hearing or feeling it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 2.3-magnitude quake, according to initial estimates, occurred a few minutes before 1 a.m. at a depth of about 9.5 miles and an approximate distance of 1.8 miles west of Rockville.

A quake of that magnitude is regarded as minor and very weak.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injury, but the quake occurred at a time when many people were asleep. Most accounts of experiencing the quake came from Montgomery County, where Rockville is located.

Reports told of shaking, of the kind caused by a heavy truck passing by. Others emphasized the sound, likening it to a kind of growling or low roar.

A Silver Spring resident told The Washington Post of hearing “a distinctive rumble that lasted 10 or 15 seconds.”

The quake rattled a house in Rockville and windows in Silver Spring, according to accounts posted on X, formerly Twitter. A tweet from downtown Silver Spring told of “a crescendoing rumble for about 4 seconds clearly coming from in the ground.”

Another Montgomery County resident said it sounded like a railroad train, “but different.” A couple of reports indicated that the rumbling went on for a few seconds and concluded with a loud banging.

In less than an hour, the USGS received more than 850 reports, most if not all describing the quake’s effects as minor.

Although most reports came from Montgomery, others came from Northern Virginia and the District. Many who experienced the quake were unsure, at least at first, of what happened.

A message to The Post’s Capital Weather Gang from the Boyds/Germantown area suggested the widespread uncertainty about the sudden geological disruption.

“I turned to my husband,” the message recounted, “and said ‘That sounds like an earthquake.’ Didn’t feel anything so I figured I just heard something weird. Guess I was right!”

Weak earthquakes aren’t frequent in Maryland but do occur at least once every few years on average. On Oct. 12, 2022, a magnitude 2 earthquake struck near Sykesville. Another — rated magnitude 2.6 — hit near Woodlawn on Aug. 18, 2021.

According to the Maryland Geological Survey, the state’s strongest confirmed tremor — rated magnitude 3.1 — occurred near Hancock in Washington County, in 1978 but a stronger one closer to magnitude 5 may have occurred near Phoenix in Baltimore County in 1939.

Earthquakes are also not uncommon in Virginia. Notably, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake — the strongest east of the Rocky Mountains since 1944 — struck Mineral, Va., on Aug. 23, 2011, rocking much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.


Courtesy: The Washington Post