- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Teri Tolley thought the vibration beneath her rocking chair yesterday morning came from a garbage truck rumbling past her Crownsville, Md., home.

But it wasn’t pickup day on her street.

Only later would the 32-year-old nurse learn she had been jostled by one of three minor earthquakes in Maryland.

“The whole chair shook and everything,” Mrs. Tolley said. “It was a loud rumble. It was just bizarre, because you don’t hear about that in this area.”

The quake occurred at 9:22 a.m. in the Dundalk area, about 3 miles east of Baltimore, and had a 2.0 magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Michelle Barret, an agency spokeswoman, described the tremor as a “micro-earthquake.”

“Which means that there is typically no damage,” she said. “Some people may be able to feel it. Obviously, people felt this one.”

Quakes of the 2.5-to-3.0 magnitude are generally the smallest that can be felt. A 4.0 quake can cause moderate damage. Those 6.0 or higher are considered major, according to the USGS.

Ms. Barret characterized the small earthquakes as an “interesting little bit of an anomaly.”

“It is not like a precursor or a run-up to anything bigger,” she said. “Typically, earthquakes that are centered in Maryland have never been very strong.”

The rumblings sent residents calling everybody from government officials to radio stations.

“We did get a number of calls from people who had felt it, one place being Glen Burnie,” said John Minsch, a USGS geophysicist in Golden, Colo.

A radio listener in Linthicum told WBAL-AM in Baltimore that the quake felt like a passing truck, too. WPOC Radio received reports from listeners as far apart as Millersville and Arbutus.

The second quake, of slightly lesser magnitude, occurred at 11:01 a.m. and about 75 miles south of the first, near Hughesville in eastern Charles County.

The third quake was reported at 12:08 p.m., in western Baltimore County, though its epicenter has not been determined.

Heather Lynch, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said state officials received no reports of damage or injuries.

The earliest earthquake recorded in Maryland struck Annapolis on April 24, 1758, and lasted 30 seconds. A moderate quake rocked Harford County on two consecutive nights in March 1883, according to USGS data.

The most recent quake in the state occurred in 2001, when a small one registering less than 2.0 hit the Columbia area. In 1993, about 20 small tremors occurred between March and November in the same area. The largest was on March 14, 1993, and registered 2.7.

Columbia and the northern parts of Cecil and Harford counties are the two most seismically active areas in Maryland.

The last significant earthquake in the region occurred Dec. 9, 2003, with an epicenter about 28 miles west of Richmond. The magnitude 4.5 temblor resulted in no injuries, but residents in the District, Prince George’s County and Northern Virginia said they felt tremors.

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