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An earthquake centered between NYC and Philadelphia rattles much of the Northeast

NEW YORK (AP) — An earthquake centered between New York and Philadelphia shook skyscrapers and suburbs across the northeastern U.S. Friday, causing no major damage but startling millions of people in an area unaccustomed to such tremors. The U.S.
People walk around Times Square as news tickers mention the East Coast earthquake on Friday April 5, 2024 in New York. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8 shook the densely populated New York City metropolitan area. Residents reported they felt rumbling across the Northeast on Friday morning. The quake was centered in New Jersey about 45 miles west of New York City and 50 miles north of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

NEW YORK (AP) — An earthquake centered between New York and Philadelphia shook skyscrapers and suburbs across the northeastern U.S. Friday, causing no major damage but startling millions of people in an area unaccustomed to such tremors.

The U.S. Geological Survey said over 42 million people might have felt the midmorning quake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8, centered near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, or about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of New York City and 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Philadelphia.

People from Baltimore to Boston and beyond reported feeling the ground shake. While there were no immediate reports of serious damage, officials were checking bridges and other major infrastructure, some flights were diverted or delayed, Amtrak slowed trains throughout the busy Northeast Corridor, and a Philadelphia-area commuter rail line suspended service out of what it said was “an abundance of caution.”

Pictures and decorative plates tumbled off the wall in Christiann Thompson's house in Whitehouse Station, she said, relaying what her husband had told her by phone as she volunteered at a library.

“The dogs lost their minds and got very terrified and ran around," she said.

Whitehouse Station Fire Chief Tim Apgar said no injuries were reported, but responders fielded some calls from people who smelled gas. Some stones were knocked loose at a historic site, Col. John Taylor’s Grist Mill, which was built in 1760 and supplied grain to George Washington’s troops during the American Revolution.

In a 26th-floor midtown Manhattan office, Shawn Clark felt the quake and initially feared an explosion or construction accident. It was “pretty weird and scary,” the attorney said.

Earthquakes are less common on the eastern than western edges of the U.S. because the East Coast does not lie on a boundary of tectonic plates. The biggest Eastern quakes usually occur along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extends through Iceland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Quakes on the East Coast can still pack a punch, as its rocks are better than their western counterparts at spreading earthquake energy across long distances.

“If we had the same magnitude quake in California, it probably wouldn’t be felt nearly as far away,” said USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso.

A 4.8-magnitude quake isn’t large enough to cause damage, except for some minor effects near the epicenter, the agency posted on the social platform X.

Still, Friday's quake caused some disruption.

Flights to the New York, Newark and Baltimore airports were held at their origins for a time while officials inspected runways for cracks. The Seton Hall University men’s basketball team said its flight to Newark was held in Indianapolis, where the team won the National Invitational Tournament on Thursday, and the flight delay would likely postpone a welcome-home celebration scheduled for Friday afternoon on Seton Hall's New Jersey campus.

At least five flights en route to Newark were diverted and landed at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where some passengers rented carts to get home.

Traffic through the Holland Tunnel between Jersey City, New Jersey, and lower Manhattan was stopped for about 10 minutes for inspections, the Port Authority of New York and Jersey said.

In midtown Manhattan, motorists blared their horns on shuddering streets. Some Brooklyn residents heard a boom and felt their building shaking. Cellphone circuits were overloaded for a time as people tried to reach loved ones and figure out what was going on. Later, phones blared with earthquake alerts during the New York Philharmonic’s morning performance, punctuating the finale of Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra.

The piece “literally ended with a cellphone alert,” said Adam Crane, the philharmonic’s vice president for external affairs.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, the shaking interrupted the chief executive of Save The Children, Janti Soeripto, as she briefed an emergency Security Council session on conditions in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war.

In New York City’s Astoria neighborhood, Cassondra Kurtz was giving her 14-year-old Chihuahua, Chiki, a cocoa-butter rubdown for her dry skin. Kurtz was recording the moment on video when her apartment started shaking hard enough that a large mirror banged audibly against a wall.

Kurtz assumed at first it was passing truck. The video captured her looking around, perplexed. Chiki, however, “was completely unbothered.”

Friday's quake was felt as far as Vermont and New Hampshire, where some residents initially figured it was snow falling off their roofs or plow trucks rumbling by.

In Hartford, Connecticut, paralegal Stacy Santa Cruz watched her computer screen shake. But unlike some other northeasterners, the Peruvian native had been through an earthquake before and recognized the sensation.

Earthquakes with magnitudes near or above 5 struck near New York City in 1737, 1783 and 1884, the USGS said. And Friday's stirred memories of the Aug. 23, 2011, earthquake that jolted tens of millions of people from Georgia to Canada. Centered in Virginia, the 5.8-magnitude quake was the strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast since World War II.

President Joe Biden said he spoke to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy about Friday's earthquake. The White House said the administration would provide help if needed.

New York City had no indications of major safety or infrastructure problems from the earthquake, said Mayor Eric Adams, who said he didn't feel the quake himself. City Buildings Commissioner James Oddo said officials would watch out for any delayed cracks or other effects on the Big Apple’s 1.1 million buildings.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the quake was felt throughout the state, but officials had no reports of any life-threatening problems.

And even the delicately placed eggs that form part of a sculpture at a Chinatown art gallery stayed in place, to the relief of gallerist Kristen Thomas.


Catalini reported from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Jake Offenhartz, Bobby Caina Calvan, Michael R. Sisak and Karen Matthews in New York City; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Michael Casey in Boston; Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; and Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Connecticut.

Jennifer Peltz And Mike Catalini, The Associated Press