Neighbors

Earthquake Shakes Up Afternoon In Lower Bucks County


A map of where the quake was centered.
Credit: USGS

An earthquake caused the ground to shake in Lower Bucks County and around the Mid-Atlantic region around dusk Thursday.

Numerous residents reported the brief shaking around 4:50 p.m. In the second-floor of NewtownPANow.com‘s office building, the floor almost seemed as if it was being pulled back and forth.

Officials from the United States Geological Survey and National Weather Service confirmed a 4.4 magnitude quake was centered off about six miles away from Dover, Delaware. The shaking was reported as a 5.5 magnitude tremor but downgraded a few minutes later.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries related to the shaking in Lower Bucks County.

Doylestown Intelligencer reporter Christian Menno tweeted that Bucks County dispatchers reported numerous calls with residents asking about the quake.

USGS mapping showed citizen reports of tremor from Washington D.C. to Connecticut.

“Felt it in Langhorne! Dining room light was shaking. I thought Santa and the reindeer came early and were running on my roof,” said Annette Strack Swanson.

Margie Matarazzo of Levittown said she had items fall in her home.

“Scared the hell out of me,” Frank Schlipf said. “I thought someone was trying to push my house.”

Several people also reported feeling uneasy and unwell after the quake. Larry Brown, a Cornell University professor of geology, told Gothamist in 2011 that post-quake sickness is real and has to do with the psychological impacts of losing your sense of stability.

Here’s how federal scientists define a quake:

An earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane. 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.

The last notable quake to be felt in Bucks County happened in August 2012 when an afternoon tremor was felt from Virginia all the way into New England.

However, there have been other quakes in the past several decades. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) reported in a years-old document that small quakes were centered near the Levittown area in 1961, 1981 and April and May 1982. In the years since, there have been other reported tremors. 

“Pennsylvanians probably will continue to feel small earthquakes generated on local faults, although the exact identity of those faults is likely to remain elusive,” the DCNR report states.


About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation’s Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama’s visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he’s not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there’s one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001