INTERVIEW: 3.6-magnitude quake shakes D.C. region

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's something that literally never happens in this part of the country, an earthquake registering 3.6 on the Richter Scale shook residents in the Metro-D.C. area. The quake was powerful enough that it was felt all the way from Louisa County which isn't far from us here. Joining us to discuss about how rare it is, is Dr. Chuck Bailey, he's a geologist at the College of William and Mary. He is live via Skype from the school's campus.

Ryan Nobles: How rare is it for something like this to happen in this part of the country?

Chuck Bailey: Well, it turns out that in the Eastern United States, earthquakes aren't actually that common. However, in Central Virginia, there's a zone of moderate seismic active. We've had a few tremors happening in the Central Piedmont that rattled people in Richmond, but northwest of D.C., this is quite rare, although again a small very moderate earthquake that jolted people out of bed at 5:00 this morning but not something we see a great deal of.

Ryan Nobles: You mentioned it wasn't really in terms of geological scales a major earthquake. In fact, it's being described at minor and there doesn't appear to be any serious damages or injuries, but could it lead to something bigger? Is it something we should be worried about down the road?

Chuck Bailey: No. In fact, one of the things to think about is when these earthquakes occur, what they're doing is relieving a certain amount of stress that's in the earth's crust, so once a fault has ruptured and the energy waves have traveled out, a certain amount of energy has been released so I would make a case that by releasing the energy with these relatively modest earthquakes, we're alleviating the idea that we're going to build stress up and up and up until we perhaps have a magnitude six or 7, something that's structurally very damaging.

Ryan Nobles: This is actually most likely the earth correcting itself in some respects or moderating the situation?

Chuck Bailey: Another way of saying it, it's sort of a relief valve. There are stresses that are inherit in the crust, even here in eastern North America, far away from a plate boundary, but when they occur, a little bit of that energy is released and an earthquake of 3, or 4.3 is what we had in Richmond in 2003, we notice them but they don't necessarily damage structures.

Ryan Nobles: Dr. Chuck Bailey from William and Mary thanks for joining us. Terrific information.

Chuck Bailey: All right, good day.

See the video at right for the full interview.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.