April earthquakes centered in Adams Center awaken a sense of wonder (2023)

From the archives of 1944: Heavy damage caused at Massena and Cornwall by early morning earthquake

Editor’s Note: This account was published on the afternoon of Sept. 5, 1944, in the hours after an earthquake struck Massena at 12:42 a.m. tha…

WATERTOWN — Nerves frayed, questions arose, dishes rattled, some pets skedaddled and rumblings echoed in Northern New York with the two recent earthquakes emanating from the Adams Center area — or, as one Times reader suggested, from “Adams EpiCenter.”

There were several aftershocks reported, the most recent late Monday morning; a small rumble coming in at 1.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, devised in 1935 by American seismologist Charles F. Richter.

That made a total of 10 aftershocks since the original one that registered 3.6 and raised questions Sunday afternoon. Quakes in the 2.5 to 3 magnitude range usually are the smallest felt by people.

In terms of being notable in the world of earthquakes, only Sunday’s 3.6 quake was of official “significance.” The U.S. Geological Survey says “significant events” relating to quakes are determined by a combination of magnitude, the number of “Did You Feel It?” responses and pager alert levels.

Sunday’s 3.6 quake was the only “significant” quake worldwide for April 23, according to the USGS. The National Earthquake Information Center, part of the USGS, locates about 20,000 earthquakes around the globe each year, or approximately 55 per day.

An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. Tectonic plates are always slowly moving, but can get stuck at their edges due to friction. When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, an earthquake occurs that releases energy in waves that travel through the Earth’s crust and cause the shaking that we feel.

April earthquakes centered in Adams Center awaken a sense of wonder (2)

In the north country, such science has been of no great shakes for most residents. But that changed on April 14 when a 2.6-magnitude quake, centered a mile west of Adams Center, was reported by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sunday’s 3.6 quake, also centered in Adams Center, has been followed by nearly a dozen smaller quakes, also centered near Adams Center, mostly too small to feel. It’s all taking place in an area where there had been very limited earthquake activity. So what’s going on?

“There’s a bit of an increase in seismicity along what seismologists call the St. Lawrence seismic zone,” said Geoffrey A. Abers, chair of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, Ithaca.

The zone, he said, roughly follows the St. Lawrence Seaway. “These are earthquakes that are normally magnitude 2 or 3, or even smaller,” Mr. Abers said. “This one, (Sunday’s) at 3.6, was just big enough that people could feel it.”

And also hear it. People reported that Sunday’s quake resembled the echoes of a sonic boom or a rumbling train passing by their homes. That is rather unusual, said Mr. Abers, a geophysicist who uses the tools of earthquake seismology to understand the forces, material cycles and deep structure of the Earth.

April earthquakes centered in Adams Center awaken a sense of wonder (3)

“It’s been documented in a few places,” Mr. Abers said. “The frequencies of the seismic signals get high enough through this kind of rock that it’s in the range that people can hear. It’s not as common as in California where the rocks are absorbing a lot more of the high frequency signals. The ground shakes a lot but it takes more to get into the audible range. It’s interesting, but there’s certainly been past examples of people hearing earthquakes.”

Two days after Sunday’s significant quake in Adams Center, there was an odd coincidence.

On Tuesday morning, 197 miles east of Adams Center, and nearly in an exact parallel line from the Adams Center epicenter, there was a 2.9 quake in New Hampshire centered in Center Sandwich at 9:49 a.m. No damage was reported, according to WMUR-9.

But Mr. Abers doesn’t think there are greater forces at work in those two quakes.

“I think that’s just coincidental,” he said. “There are quakes of this size that happen in the U.S. and eastern Canada a few times a year.”

There was also a quake Feb. 6, centered near Buffalo, that shook Western New York. That one registered a 3.8 magnitude.

“Very generally, there seems to be a belt of seismicity along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the first couple of Great Lakes,” Mr. Abers said. “It’s not very strong, but every now and then there’s like a 5.1 in the Massena/Plattsburgh area.”

A 1944, a 5.8 earthquake centered near Massena is one of the strongest quakes in recorded state history, according to the National Earthquake Information Center, Golden, Colorado.

According to Cornell University, New York’s biggest earthquakes have occurred in the Adirondack Mountains: In 1983, an event that measured 5.1 occurred near the town of Newcomb, and in 2002 a 5.3 event occurred in Ausable Forks.

“The rocks underneath all of us in upstate New York are very old and they’ve had a long and complex history,” Mr. Abers said. “So, there’s a lot of faults down there and a lot we at least don’t know about. As you get up close to the border in the St. Lawrence, you can start to see granites, but everywhere south of there, you see flat-lying sedimentary rocks.”

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Common sedimentary rocks include sandstone, limestone and shale.

“These are all 400-million-year-old rocks, but underneath them, there are much older rocks that have faults in them and it’s very hard to learn about them because they don’t move very much,” Mr. Abers said. “They just sat there for most of the last billion years.”

“But every now and then,” he added, “stresses slowly build up over geologic time and every now and then, one of them goes.”


It’s not known if the recent quakes in Adams Center are indicative of more to come. Earthquakes cannot be predicted.

“We don’t have a good physical mechanism that would say, ‘Oh, this happened, and expect more big ones,’” Mr. Abers said. “We also don’t really understand what’s driving these quakes. There’s still a lot of questions.”

The February earthquake in Turkey and Syria that has caused a humanitarian disaster originated from a known active seismic zone, Mr. Abers said.

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“We don’t have anything like that on that scale in the eastern U.S.,” Mr. Abers said. “California — yes. That’s a different story.”

To measure earthquakes, the USGS oversees a series of seismographs across the U.S.

“They try to record every earthquake bigger than about a magnitude of 2½,” Mr. Abers said. “In Watertown, you’re close enough to Canada where the Canadian national network provides a lot of information about earthquakes on the U.S. side. And then there’s the Northeast Regional Network operated by a consortium of universities and coordinated by Columbia University in the past. They all coordinate and share data.”

Mr. Abers estimated that there are probably a couple of dozen seismographs for the networks within 100 or 200 miles of Watertown.

“Some of them might be on a school campus and some are in more remote places,” he said. “The sensors themselves vary in size and shape but they’re usually like a small cylinder that’s buried in the ground so they detect really small ground motions.”

According to USGS, the largest recorded earthquake in the United States was a magnitude 9.2 that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Good Friday, March 28, 1964.

The largest recorded earthquake in the world was a magnitude 9.5 in Chile on May 22, 1960.


Northern New York has a notable history of earthquakes, although nothing on the magnitude of major humanitarian disasters such as the Feb. 6 one that hit southeast Turkey and the northwest region of Syria, killing more than 50,000 and affecting 18 million others. However, if more people were around here in 1663, a quake that shook the East likely would have been a major disaster.

We can thank the late Lt. Col. Albert M. Skinner of Watertown for our region’s early earthquake history. In 1944, following a big earthquake that hit Northern New York, Lt. Col. Skinner, “a student of weather conditions in this area,” wrote an article in the Watertown Daily Times about the north country and its quake history. At the time, he was working for the Office of Civilian Defense in Washington, D.C. He noted that seismological investigations were assigned to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the first scientific agency of the U.S. government, in 1925. His local survey was assembled by “widely scattered” information regarding earthquakes in the publication “Earthquake History of the United States,” published in 1938.

Among the major NNY earthquakes Lt. Col. Skinner documented:

- Feb. 5, 1663: A quake with the epicenter near Trois-Rivières, Quebec, was probably felt in all of eastern Canada and northeastern U.S.

“Its intensity was probably 10 at its epicenter,” Lt. Col. Skinner wrote. “It occurred so early in colonial history that accounts are far from definite. Many of them are quite lurid and tell of mountains being thrown down and of great forests sliding into the St. Lawrence.”

To measure earthquakes before the 1930s, the events were given a number based on damage and where people felt tremors.

- March 12, 1853: “A shock of intensity 7” occurred in the northern part of New York state.

- Dec. 18, 1867: A shock lasting 25 seconds was felt in Vermont, Canada and NNY. In Ogdensburg, it woke people up.

- Oct. 20, 1870: A shock of 8 or 9, centering in Canada, was most strongly felt along the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec.

- Dec. 25, 1903: A quake with an intensity of 5 centered in Madrid affected 1,500 square miles.

- April 28, 1913: A 7-8 intensity shock, centered near Potsdam, was felt over an area of 3,000 square miles.

- May 22, 1917: A shock covered 15,000 square miles in the St. Lawrence River Valley.

- March 18, 1928: A shock centered in Saranac Lake was felt at Malone. Sounded like “artillery fire.” Dishes fell from shelves.

■ March 10, 1937: A shock of 4-5, centered in the Canton area.

From the Times files, the following are highlights of reports from more recent earthquakes, most from the Massena area:

■ Sept. 5, 1944: At 12:39 a.m. Labor Day, severe shock shakes Earth in Massena; measures 6.0 on Richter scale; causes structural damage in excess of $1 million; 2,800 chimneys broken or toppled; called strongest quake in state history at the time by Carl Stover, National Earthquake Information Center, Golden, Colorado, in 1981.

“In Watertown, the effects of the earthquake inspired wonderment and fear in residents who were awakened by the sway of their beds. Rattling windows and dishes were widespread,” the Times reported.

- Aug. 6 and 7, 1950: “At 8 p.m. and midnight, two quakes; plates fastening WMSA radio tower to ground loosened; no major structural damage elsewhere, although 332-foot tower swayed violently during tremors.”

- Sept. 29, 1961: At 2:40 a.m. Rooseveltown customs collector claims house shaken; no confirmation from seismological equipment in Montreal.

- March 30, 1964: At 4:10 a.m., series of three quakes awakens Massena; third shock most severe; houses shook for several seconds; no confirmation from seismological equipment.

- Oct. 9, 1969: At 8:08 p.m., measured 4.0 on Richter scale; Massena-Cornwall area; household windows rattled; slightly shook tower at Ottawa International Airport.

- April 20, 1961: At 8 a.m., brief, sharp tremor rumbled Robert Moses Power Dam but caused no structural damage.

- Oct. 25, 1951: Village of Massena residents awakened by rumbling noises from two quakes; Fordham University seismologist William Lynch says no quake measured by equipment.

- July 4 weekend, 1981: Several tremors felt throughout St. Lawrence and Franklin counties; most severe reached 3.0 on Richter scale; no structural damage.

- March 2, 1982: It was a tremor that at first, only one person seemed to notice. Claims by Michael Becker of Alexandria Bay that he had been awakened by a small quake were at first refuted but later supported by seismology experts.

- Oct. 7, 1983, a strong tremor measuring 5.2 with its epicenter about 9 miles north of Blue Mountain Lake shakes the north country.

- Oct. 11, 1983: A 4.2 quake centered near Ottawa was felt in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties.

At the time, Frank A. Revetta, geology professor at SUNY Potsdam, told the Associated Press: “Why this is acting up right now, I don’t know. It’s very odd.” Earthquakes, he said, weren’t nearly so well understood as those in California, where faults surface and are easily mapped.

- Aug. 9, 1988, a quake centered 6 miles north of Massena rumbles at 3.4 on the scale.

- Nov. 25, 1988, an earthquake rumbled through the Adirondacks and the St. Lawrence River valley. It lasted more than two minutes and measured 6 on the Richter scale. Its epicenter was in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, about 95 miles north of Quebec City.

- Oct. 19, 1990, a moderate earthquake centered about 70 miles north of Ottawa rattled dishes and windows throughout St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, but didn’t affect most of Jefferson County.

- April 17, 1992, the epicenters of two earthquakes that shook part of the north country were in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. Quakes occurred at 9:38 p.m. and 10:11 p.m. about 25 kilometers apart in the St. Lawrence River between Massena and Cornwall, Ontario. The first registered 2.4 on the Richter scale and the second quake registered 2.5.

- Nov. 16, 1993, an earthquake registering 4.1 on the Richter scale shook the Montreal area before dawn and was felt as far away as Vermont and Northern New York. No injuries were reported. The quake’s epicenter was 15 miles south-southeast of Montreal.

- Jan. 18, 1994, a quake at 1:45 a.m. and registered 3.0 on the Richter scale. It woke several people up in Malone, Chateaugay and Burke in Franklin County. It was pinpointed directly below Chateaugay, a small village 15 miles east of Malone.

■ March 2, 1995, an earthquake rumbled through a remote region of the Adirondack Mountains near Tupper Lake. It registered about 3 on the Richter scale and the focal point of the temblor was 15 miles north of Tupper Lake and 20 miles northwest of Saranac Lake.

- March 14, 1996, an earthquake that rumbled through a remote area of Quebec was felt in the north country. The quake took place at 5:42 a.m. and registered 4.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was in a remote area about 55 miles northwest of Montreal.

- July 31, 1997, a quake centered near Glenfield and Greig in Lewis County registers between 3.0 and 3.4 in magnitude on the Richter scale.

- July 10, 1997, an earthquake with a magnitude of 2.9 was felt in Massena. The epicenter was six miles west of Cornwall, Ontario, just across the St. Lawrence River from Massena. No damage was reported.

- June 9, 1998, a small earthquake centered near the Canadian border rattled parts of Northern New York. There were no reports of significant damage or injuries. The epicenter was near Malone. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 3.4, Canadian officials said. A quake of magnitude 3.5 can cause slight damage.

- April 20, 2000, a minor earthquake hit parts of eastern New York from the Adirondacks to the Mohawk Valley. The tremor was recorded at about 4:45 a.m., with the epicenter in the town of Newcomb in Essex County, about 95 miles north of Albany. The National Earthquake Information Center says the quake registered 3.7.

-Nov. 6, 2012: A temblor measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale occurred 31 miles east of Ottawa along the Ottawa River just after 4 a.m. Its effects were felt as far away as Potsdam and Massena.

- Jan. 16, 2013: A 2.4-magnitude temblor strikes at 8:46 a.m. Wednesday, centered 11 miles northeast of Saranac Lake.

- Nov. 28, 2015: A magnitude 3.3 quake centered near Rooseveltown was felt through most of St. Lawrence County and in large portions of Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

- March 21, 2018: A magnitude of 2.7 quake occurred at a depth of 3.11 miles, about 15.5 miles outside Malone.

- Jan. 13, 2020: A magnitude 3.28 quake, centered in Ormstown, Quebec, was felt around Northern New York.

- July 15, 2021: A quake centered roughly 5 miles northwest of the village of Massena near the western tip of Croil Island on the St. Lawrence River was felt around St. Lawrence County and southern Ontario.

- July 29, 2022: A magnitude 2.5 quake centered in St. Regis Falls felt as far away as Saranac Lake.

- Feb. 20, 2023: A 2.1-magnitude quake centered near the intersection of Route 37 and Haverstock Road in Massena.

- Mid-to-late-April, 2023: The tremors of Adams Center.

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Where was the strongest earthquake in the history of the United States from the related reading trivia? ›

The largest recorded earthquake in the United States was a magnitude 9.2 that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska on Good Friday, March 28, 1964 UTC.

Which refers to the shaking of the earth's crust caused by a release of energy? ›

Earthquake. An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates vibrations or seismic waves that radiate up to the surface, causing the ground to shake.

Where does an earthquake start represents focus? ›

The location below the earth's surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the earth is called the epicenter. Sometimes an earthquake has foreshocks. These are smaller earthquakes that happen in the same place as the larger earthquake that follows.

Is proportional to the energy released by an earthquake at the focus? ›

Magnitude is proportional to the energy released by an earthquake at the focus. It is calculated from earthquakes recorded by an instrument called seismograph.

Where was the most severe earthquake experience in America? ›

The strongest earthquake in the United States of America happened on 03/28/1964 in the Alaska region with a magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter scale. The earthquake also triggered a tsunami, leading to further victims and destruction.

Where was the most violent earthquake ever recorded in the US? ›

On March 27, 1964 at 5:36pm local time (March 28 at 3:36 UTC) an earthquake of magnitude 9.2 occurred in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska.

What do you call the shaking of the ground caused by the sudden release of energy that is stored in rocks? ›

Earthquakes are the result of sudden movement along faults within the Earth. The movement releases stored-up 'elastic strain' energy in the form of seismic waves, which propagate through the Earth and cause the ground surface to shake.

What are three effects of earthquakes? ›

The effects from earthquakes include ground shaking, surface faulting, ground failure, and less commonly, tsunamis.

What US state has the most earthquakes? ›

Alaska and California have the most earthquakes (not human-induced).

What is the focus of the earthquake also known as? ›

Focus (aka Hypocenter) is the location in the Earth where the earthquake starts.

Where does the energy released by an earthquake come from? ›

An earthquake is the release of energy from the earth's tectonic plates. The zone where two tectonic plates come together is called a fault. Prior to an earthquake, tectonic forces result in a gradual buildup of strain energy stored on either side of the fault.

What carry the energy of an earthquake away from the focus? ›

The epicenter is the point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus. 6. Figure 18.3: When the two blocks on either side of a fault plane suddenly slip, the energy travels outward from the focus as intense vibrations called seismic waves. These waves cause the ground near the epicenter to shake violently.

When was the last big earthquake in USA? ›

Since 1900, earthquakes have occurred in 39 U.S. states. Minor earthquakes, for instance, struck states such as Illinois and Nevada in 2008. There has not been a major quake on the U.S. mainland, however, since the 6.7 magnitude Northridge, California, event in January 1994.

Which city suffered the worst earthquake in American history when? ›

Devastating fires soon broke out in San Francisco and lasted for several days. More than 3,000 people died, and over 80% of the city was destroyed. The event is remembered as the deadliest earthquake in the history of the United States.

Which state in the US has never had an earthquake? ›

The Answer:

According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Information Center, every state in the U.S. has experienced an earthquake of one kind or another. It lists Florida and North Dakota as the two states with the fewest earthquakes.

Has there ever been a 10.0 earthquake? ›

No, earthquakes of magnitude 10 or larger cannot happen. The magnitude of an earthquake is related to the length of the fault on which it occurs. That is, the longer the fault, the larger the earthquake.

Where is the lowest earthquake risk in the US? ›

Is there any place in the world that doesn't have earthquakes? Florida and North Dakota are the states with the fewest earthquakes. Antarctica has the least earthquakes of any continent, but small earthquakes can occur anywhere in the World.

When did the earthquake happen in the Bible? ›

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have found evidence of damage to buildings and pottery that may have been caused by a huge, eighth-century B.C.E. earthquake mentioned in the biblical books of Amos and Zechariah.

What was the worst earthquake ever recorded? ›

The 1960 Valdivia earthquake and tsunami (Spanish: Terremoto de Valdivia) or the Great Chilean earthquake (Gran terremoto de Chile) on 22 May 1960 was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. Various studies have placed it at 9.4–9.6 on the moment magnitude scale.

What is a sudden vibration of the Earth called? ›

An earthquake is the vibration, sometimes violent, of the Earth's surface that follows a release of energy in the Earth's crust. This energy can be generated by a sudden dislocation of segments of the crust, by a volcanic eruption, or event by manmade explosions.

What is a violent shaking of ground called? ›

An earthquake is an intense shaking of Earth's surface. The shaking is caused by movements in Earth's outermost layer.

Which characteristic of an earthquake causes the most damage? ›

Surface Waves

They are responsible for the strongest ground shaking and most of the damage to the built environment that occurs in large earthquakes. Love and Rayleigh waves are the two main types of surface waves. Love waves.

How does an earthquake affect human life? ›

Earthquakes can have immediate and long-term impacts on health. Immediate health impacts include: trauma-related deaths and injuries from building collapse; trauma-related deaths and injuries from the secondary effects of the earthquake, like drowning from tsunamis or burns from fires.

Do trees fall in earthquakes? ›

In montane forests, landslides are the main cause of tree death and injury during earthquakes. Landslides range from soil movements that uproot and bury trees over extensive areas to rock falls that strike individual trees.

What causes most deaths in earthquakes? ›

Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects caused by the ground shaking.

Will California eventually fall into the ocean? ›

No, California is not going to fall into the ocean. California is firmly planted on the top of the earth's crust in a location where it spans two tectonic plates.

What are the 5 things not to do during an earthquake? ›

AVOID the following in an earthquake
  • Doorways. Doors may slam shut and cause injuries.
  • Windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures. You could be hurt by shattered glass or heavy objects.
  • Elevators. ...
  • Downed power lines - stay at least 10 metres away to avoid injury.
  • Coastline.

Should you go under a doorway in an earthquake? ›

DO NOT stand in a doorway. You are safer under a table. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. Doorways do not protect you from the most likely source of injury − falling or flying objects.

What are the early warning signs of an earthquake? ›

Warning signs that may indicate an earthquake is imminent can include:
  • Erratic animal behaviours such as scared or confused pets or birdcalls not usually heard during the night.
  • Sudden water level changes in wells or artesian bores.
Apr 18, 2023

Can hot weather cause earthquakes? ›

A later theory stated that earthquakes occurred in calm, cloudy conditions, and were usually preceded by strong winds, fireballs, and meteors. There is no such thing as "earthquake weather". Statistically, there is approximately an equal distribution of earthquakes in cold weather, hot weather, rainy weather, etc.

How long do earthquakes last? ›

Earthquakes may last seconds to minutes. While the shaking of small earthquakes typically lasts only a few seconds, strong shaking during moderate to large earthquakes, such as the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, can lasts couple minutes.

Where does most of our knowledge of Earth's interior come from? ›

Most of our knowledge of Earth's interior comes from the study of earthquake waves.

What is the location where stress is released during an earthquake called? ›

The focus is the place inside Earth's crust where an earthquake originates. The point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus is the epicenter. When energy is released at the focus, seismic waves travel outward from that point in all directions.

Why do most earthquakes cause little damage and loss of life? ›

There have been large earthquakes with very little damage because they caused little shaking and/or buildings were built to withstand that shaking. In other cases, smaller earthquakes have caused great shaking and/or buildings collapsed that were never designed or built to survive shaking.

Where does the most damage occur in an earthquake? ›

As the rocks shatter at the focus, shock waves called seismic waves radiate outward in all directions. The point on Earth's surface directly above the focus is called the epicenter. This is where most damage occurs.

What layer of Earth does an earthquake affect the most? ›

The Earth's crust (the outer layer of the planet) is made up of several pieces called tectonic plates and most earthquakes occur along their edges.

What does a 7.8 earthquake mean? ›

“In terms of energy, the magnitude 7.8 that occurred is 708 times stronger than a magnitude 5.9,” he said, citing as an example an earthquake in Melbourne, Australia, in 2021, in which some minor damage was sustained to the city. The strength of earthquakes is measured on a scale known as the local magnitude scale.

What energy is released by an earthquake? ›

An earthquake releases energy at many frequencies, and in order to compute an accurate value, you have to include all frequencies of shaking for the entire event. While each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in the measured amplitude, it represents an 32 times more energy release.

What energy is released in an earthquake is it's? ›

Answer and Explanation: The energy typically released in an earthquake is kinetic energy, thermal energy and sound energy. The kinetic energy associated with an earthquake is due to the movement of the ground.

What kinds of energy are released by an earthquake? ›

Introduction. Earthquakes not only release seismic wave energy but also generate other types of energy such as rotational kinetic energy, gravitational potential energy (GPE) and elastic strain energy (Dahlen 1977).

Where was the strongest earthquake in history? ›

The earthquake of May 22, 1960, that struck the town of Valdivia in southern Chile is the most powerful ever recorded and has become known as the Great Chilean Earthquake. It is thought to have measured 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale (MMS).

Where was the strongest earthquake located? ›

The earthquake that struck near Valdivia, Chile, in 1960 was the most powerful temblor in recorded history. The quake left about two million people homeless. On May 22, 1960, the most powerful earthquake in recorded history—magnitude 9.5—struck southern Chile.

In what place did the strongest earthquake ever recorded occur? ›

On May 22, 1960 a great Mw 9.5 earthquake, the largest earthquake ever instrumentally recorded, occurred off the coast of southern Chile.

Where did the strongest earthquake recorded happen? ›

The biggest earthquake ever recorded, of magnitude 9.5, happened in 1960 in Chile, at a subduction zone where the Pacific plate dives under the South American plate.

What was the most deadliest earthquake ever recorded? ›

The most deadly earthquake in history was in Shaanxi, China in 1556. It's estimated to have killed 830,000 people.
What were the world's deadliest earthquakes?
LocationShaanxi, China
Estimated death toll830,000
Earthquake magnitude8
10 more columns
Oct 5, 2018

What was the largest earthquake ever in the United States damage? ›

Prince William Sound Alaska (March 28, 1964) — 9.2

The quake measured 9.2. and lasted just under 5 minutes. It triggered a tsunami and caused massive ground fissures. The quake destroyed several buildings and resulted in damage that was estimated to total $116 million.

What are the 3 biggest earthquakes in the world? ›

Largest Earthquakes ever recorded
  1. Valdivia, Chile 22 May 1960 (magnitude 9.5) ...
  2. Prince William Sound, Alaska 28 March 1964 (magnitude 9.2) ...
  3. Sumatra, Indonesia 26 December 2004 (magnitude 9.1) ...
  4. Sendai, Japan 11 March 2011 (magnitude 9.0) ...
  5. Kamchatka, Russia 4 November 1952 (magnitude 9.0)

When was the last major earthquake in the United States? ›

Since 1900, earthquakes have occurred in 39 U.S. states. Minor earthquakes, for instance, struck states such as Illinois and Nevada in 2008. There has not been a major quake on the U.S. mainland, however, since the 6.7 magnitude Northridge, California, event in January 1994.

Where was the biggest earthquake to hit the lower 48 states? ›

Today in science: March 27, 1964. On this date, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America struck in the Prince William Sound southeast of Anchorage, Alaska, at 5:36 p.m. local time.

Where does 90% of the world's earthquakes occur? ›

The world's greatest earthquake belt, the circum-Pacific seismic belt, is found along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where about 81 percent of our planet's largest earthquakes occur. It has earned the nickname "Ring of Fire". Why do so many earthquakes originate in this region?

How long does an earthquake last? ›

Earthquakes may last seconds to minutes. While the shaking of small earthquakes typically lasts only a few seconds, strong shaking during moderate to large earthquakes, such as the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, can lasts couple minutes.


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