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Even at Brown, some say they felt New Jersey earthquake

Shakes felt throughout northeast, but no significant damages registered

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake can be felt over hundreds of miles from its epicenter and may cause very minor property damage, according to Colleen Dalton ’00, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences.
A magnitude 4.8 earthquake can be felt over hundreds of miles from its epicenter and may cause very minor property damage, according to Colleen Dalton ’00, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences.

At 10:23 a.m. Friday, a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, about 40 miles west of New York City. The quake sent tremors throughout the northeastern United States, with numerous reports of shaking in Rhode Island, including on Brown’s campus. 

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake can be felt over hundreds of miles from its epicenter and may cause very minor property damage, according to Colleen Dalton ’00, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences. Little damage was reported following the earthquake.

“Earthquakes do happen in the northeast, but they are typically infrequent, small and felt only locally or not at all,” Dalton wrote in an email to The Herald. The last earthquake felt by many Rhode Islanders occurred in November 2020 near New Bedford, Massachusetts, with a magnitude of 3.6, she added.

Earthquakes that do occur in the northeast are “thought to occur on ancient faults that may have formed during previous episodes of continental break-up and collision that occurred hundreds of millions of years ago,” Dalton wrote. But, “it is not well understood what forces cause reactivation of these faults, although numerous possible explanations have been proposed.”

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Whatever the reason for the quake may be, several students reported feeling rumbling Friday morning. The Herald spoke with some of these students about what was shaking before they were shook.

Lucas Lieberman ’25 was doing homework in his room when his bed suddenly started to shake. “I assumed it was something in the building, like water going through pipes or construction I didn’t know about,” he wrote in a message to The Herald.

Aanya Hudda ’25 was lying in bed and taking a break from work when the bedframe began to move. “I realized that the walls of my dorm were creaking a bit as well and my fan was shaking,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. “It didn't last very long and I wasn’t necessarily worried, but I did think it was a bit odd.”

Colin Guillemette ’26 was scrolling through social media apps when his bed started shaking as well. “It lasted like 10 to 15 seconds,” he described in an email to The Herald. “I was a little startled and confused, but (there) wasn't a lot of movement so I didn’t panic or anything.”

Sitting closer to the floor, Lulu Levy ’25 was watching a soccer game on her beanbag when she felt “everything shake for like a second and a half,” she said.

“I kind of just thought, at first, maybe someone had dropped something,” Levy added. It felt like “something had fallen or something had dropped nearby.”

The shaking didn’t immediately register as an earthquake for many students. Others did not feel the quake at all.

“At first I thought it was me (moving), or a car without a muffler driving by on Thayer,” Hudda wrote. “I texted my roommates to see if they felt it too, and they both said no, so I assumed it was nothing.”

Hudda would later discover, through a text message from a friend, that she had just experienced an earthquake. 

Levy went back to watching her soccer game and “kind of forgot about it for a little bit,” she said. A few minutes later, Levy received a notification from the New York Times about the earthquake: “I was like, ‘Oh, wait, maybe that's what it was,’” she added.

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According to Lieberman, “right away my friend from New York City texted me saying ‘Did you just feel that earthquake?’ And I was like, ‘No way, yeah I did,’” he recalled.

Guillemette got his confirmation from Sidechat. “My roommate came home and I told him about it and he just looked at me funny as if I made it up,” he said. “I immediately went on Sidechat to see if anyone else had a similar experience, and sure enough there (were) like (five) posts back-to-back about the earthquake.”

This was Guillemette’s second earthquake experience, the first being “a few years ago back in my hometown in Massachusetts,” he wrote. “Funnily enough I was also in bed, it felt very similar (with the) bed shaking, but maybe a little more extreme than this time!”

Hudda, a native of Washington, D.C., added that this quake felt “significantly smaller” than the 2011 earthquake that hit Virginia and the D.C. metropolitan area, damaging the Washington National Cathedral. 

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“I lived in Slater Hall last year, and my dorm shook way less during this earthquake than Slater shook during Spring Weekend,” Hudda joked.

But for Lieberman, this quake was a first. “The biggest thing that surprised me was that it literally shakes side to side (and) vibrates, just like stereotypical earthquakes from movies,” he wrote.

The strength of the quakes despite the distance between Providence and the epicenter of the quake also shocked Lieberman. “It’s crazy to imagine how catastrophic a high magnitude earthquake would be, if this was only a 4.8 and super far away from the center,” he wrote. 

“Overall it was a new experience, and the perfect opportunity for Californians to act cool and nonchalant,” Lieberman joked.


Tom Li

Tom Li is a Metro Editor covering the Health & Environment and Development & Infrastructure beats. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics and International & Public Affairs. He is an avid RIPTA passenger and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.



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