At Least 20 Mass. Residents Displaced By Earthquake That Rattled Southeastern Part Of The State

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A rare earthquake rattled parts of southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Sunday morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed the 4.0 tremor was centered in the southeastern part of the state near Dartmouth at about 9:10 a.m., striking at a depth of 9.3 miles.

(Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)
(Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

The epicenter was a few miles off the coast of New Bedford, in Buzzards Bay, said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the USGS National Earthquake Information Center.

WBUR meteorologist Dave Epstein said people felt the rattle in most of Rhode Island, all of eastern Massachusetts and parts of southern New Hampshire.

"So far, we have over 1,000 people that have reported that they've felt the quake," says Paul Caruso, a geophysicist at USGS.

The Red Cross of Massachusetts said it was working to assist at least 20 adults and an unknown number of children who were reportedly displaced in New Bedford.

Earthquakes are uncommon in the Northeast. This one is comparable to an earthquake in New York, not far from Burlington, Vermont, of magnitude 5.0 back in 2002, WBUR's meteorologist Dave Epstein said.

Caruso added that "usually, people feel tremors above a magnitude of 2.5, but it depends how close they are to the tremor."

Sometimes, people can even feel 2.0 quakes — especially on the east coast, because the rocks here are very old and transmit tremors well. California's rocks are newer and full of faults and fractures, which dissipate the seismic energy, Caruso said.

Damage from this quake is likely to be minimal.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you'll be seeing cracks showing up in a building, but we won't be looking at major damage reports. In 2020, it seems like anything can happen, and now we can add an earthquake to the list," Epstein said.

With additional reporting from the Associated Press.

This article was originally published on November 08, 2020.

Elie Levine Freelance Digital Producer
Elie Levine was a freelance digital producer for WBUR.



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