5.8 Is a Significant Quake

The East Coast quake was shallow and nearly a magnitude of 6. That would be enough to catch the Bay Area's attention.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Tuesday, Aug 23, 2011  |  Updated 9:22 PM PDT
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NBC Bay Area's Brent Cannon Speaks with One of the Country's Premiere Earthquake Experts About the 5.8 Quake on the East Coast.

NBC Bay Area's Brent Cannon Speaks with One of the Country's Premiere Earthquake Experts About the 5.8 Quake on the East Coast.

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Earthquakes: East Coast vs. West Coast

"Rocks on the East Coast are better transmitters of energy that rocks on the West Coast," said Dr. Lucy Jones, of Caltech in Pasadena. "Out here they are broken up. On the East Coast, the rocks are relatively intact. An intact bell rings louder than a cracked bell."
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The news of the D.C. area earthquake spread quickly in the Bay Area. First on Twitter, then on 24 hour cable networks, like CNN.  The revolution in Tripoli was suddenly a  Page 2 story.

The magnitude was 5.8 earthquake occurred on a Thrust fault. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was half a mile deep, which is considered shallow and makes the quake significant even by earhtquake country standards.

Experts said East Coast earthquakes are usually smaller and the area is not as prepared as California for unexpected shaking.

There are reports of people spilling out on the streets of the nation's capitol. Many in both the Pentagon and the White House said their first thought when feeling the earthquake was that it could be terror attack.

It was centered 80 miles west of Washington, D.C.
, but it was felt in New York City, Detroit, North Carolina, Ohio and Boston.

The earthquake was felt in such a wide area because the ground under the East Coast is more attached because of a lack of earthquake faults, according to the USGS.  That makes the area a better transmitter of energy.

Here in California our underground faults break up the core underground and thus keep the earthquakes from spreading from one end of the state to the other. 

Caltech scientist Dr. Lucy Jones described it as an intact bell ringing louder than a cracked bell.

In the early minutes, there were no reports of damage or injury, but Caltech experts said they expect to see significant damage once we hear from the area directly above the quake. They said a rural area of Virginia felt the quake with an intensity of a 7.0 earthquake.  They said the D.C. area felt a 4.0 quake and the New York area felt a 2.0 earthquake when you take into account intensity factors.

There was a 5.9 earthquake in Southern California on June 14, 2010. No damage was reported from that one.

A 5.2 quake that hit Napa in September 2000 caused enough damage for President Bill Clinton to make a "major disaster declaration."

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