Haiti earthquake felt in Virginia; Water in Christiansburg well rises and falls

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Even though the earthquake in Haiti was centered thousands of miles away from here, the seismic shockwaves were felt right here in Virginia.

Although the people in Virginia didn't feel the ground move, the groundwater did. It took only 15 minutes for the seismic waves from the Haiti earthquake to affect the water beneath our feet.

"In this case, it was a one foot oscillation," said hydrologist David Nelms.

Nelms says a 6.0 earthquake or stronger causes the water in the Christiansburg well to move up and down, even if it's 1000s of miles away.

When the quake hit, the water started moving up and down rapidly for 2 hours. And this isn't the first time this well has grabbed headlines. The Christiansburg well has picked up on 200 large earthquakes around the world since real time monitoring began in 2004.

The devastating 9.0 earthquake in Sumatra made a huge impression-- causing the water to react 3 times as much as it did because of the Haiti earthquake.

"Once we saw that, this well got a lot of attention worldwide from people who were shocked that this happened," said Nelms.

Something about the geology of southwest Virginia makes the well an all star; famous to scientists around the globe. So what makes it so sensitive?

"Good question. Nobody really knows. It's been studied since the big earthquakes in Alaska in the 60's," Nelms said.

And you can study it yourself by clicking here. You can monitor the water level at the Christiansburg well in real time.

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