Asphalt road with long crack, earthquake effect causes ground to

What’s Shakin’ in Pennsylvania?

If you are like me, you probably stopped what you were doing on the morning of April 5th around 10:30 and thought to yourself, “What the heck was that?” Then my memory flashed back to August 23, 2011, with the same wavy, dizzy sensation of an earthquake.

As you know, the severity of an earthquake is measured using a scale, with 1 being the weakest and 10 being the strongest. These magnitudes are calculated on a base 10 logarithmic scale, so when comparing two different whole number magnitude shakes, you’re really looking at a tenfold difference, which can be quite significant. That’s why they are measured precisely with decimals. Our April 5th earthquake measured 4.8 while the one in August 2011, centered in Virginia, was 5.8.

Now, this recent rumble had me wondering about Pennsylvania’s most significant earthquake. According to an article published in the Sharon Herald, the biggest earthquake ever measured occurred on September 25, 1998, in Mercer County. The tremor (formerly known as the Pymatuning Earthquake) came in at a whopping 5.2 on the Richter scale. Damage was very minor, but it was reported that shocks could be felt as far west as Illinois and as far north as Ontario.

The negligible damage that resulted from each of these earthquakes shows how far the engineering community has come in our ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

At Nave Newell, we’re aware of the potential for natural disasters and the significant design challenges they can present for engineers. Structural engineers ensure that a building can withstand the forces of an earthquake. As civil engineers, we are watching to be sure that stormwater conveyance and stormwater management systems can handle the potential flooding caused by hurricanes. This is especially important for us since we work on several projects along or near major water bodies.

We always keep in mind that what we do, needs to last a long, long time. There certainly is a reason to be grateful to have good infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

Not what you were expecting? Why, what shake-up were you thinking about??

Peltz, Jennifer and Mike Catalini. “US East Coast earthquake rattles millions, but region escapes sweeping damage.” Sharon Herald, 5 April 2024.