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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NYC area hit by biggest quake in 140 years; flights disrupted

By Brian K. Sullivan, Nacha Cattan, Mia Gindis and Skylar Woodhouse Bloomberg News Bloomberg News

NEW YORK – The New York area’s strongest earthquake in 140 years rattled northern New Jersey on Friday morning, shaking office buildings in Manhattan and halting air traffic.

The preliminary 4.8 magnitude temblor was the strongest in the area since 1884, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It occurred near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and was felt as far away as Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

“I just saw the mirrors on both sides of our wall shaking and my dog’s reaction. She’s a little French bulldog. She freaked out,” said Milena Altman, 37, a self-employed social media manager in Queens. “I ran into the bathroom doorway and just started immediately thinking of all these other things that it could be other than an earthquake.”

The earthquake caused travel delays throughout the New York area, and Newark’s Liberty International Airport issued a ground stop for flights. New Jersey Transit said the system was experiencing up to 20-minute delays in both directions due to bridge inspections, and Amtrak implemented speed restrictions.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said officials were checking for any damages.

“Our preliminary reports do not indicate major life safety or infrastructure issues from the earthquake,” Adams said in a post on X.

The most vulnerable structures are probably older homes with brick faces and chimneys, said John Bellini, a geophysicist with the USGS.

“We consider it to be moderate – it is capable of causing some damage,” he said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and her counterparts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were all in contact with emergency managers.

Major earthquakes are uncommon in the New York area, although a minor temblor occurred in January.

“As I was closing the door to the house, I heard a loud crash and then everything started shaking,” said Nancy Rochelle, who lives in Lebanon, New Jersey. “I thought that the garage door was coming off of the tracks and that it was crashing. But then I realized the whole house was shaking and things were falling off of the shelf in the kitchen.”

More than 100 earthquakes have been recorded in that part of New Jersey, but most people don’t notice quakes until they reach magnitude 2 or higher, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the USGS.

Typically, quakes on the East Coast are felt over a wider area than out West because of the age of the rocks. The rocks in the East are more continuous, whereas they are broken up with faults in the West.

Trish Hegeman, who works near the epicenter in New Jersey, said she heard a “loud noise” and “rumbling.” She said it felt somewhat familiar to her because she used to live in California.

“It looks like we were right on top of it,” said Hegeman, executive director of Mane Stream, a nonprofit that provides horseback riding for special-needs children and adults in Tewksbury, New Jersey. “We had one picture that was propped up against the wall and it fell over.”

Her horses seemed fine, though one whinnied during the tremor, she said.

A driver who dropped by for a delivery told her the road “was waving,” she said.


(With assistance from Brandon Sapienza.)