Just because it has not happened since 1884 does not mean that it won’t happen soon — possibly very soon — warns an earthquake expert in assessing New York City’s risk of being struck by a devastating earthquake.
“We tend to think of seismic activity as a West Coast problem,” Kathryn Miles wrote in the New York Post. “But New York, which is actually riddled with faults, has a long history of earthquakes: On average, the region has witnessed a moderate quake (about a 5.0 on the Richter scale) every hundred years. The last one was in 1884. Seismologists say we can expect the next one any day now.”
Geologist Charles Merguerian said a fault passes through 125th Street in NYC, otherwise known as the Manhattanville Fault.
He added that if New York City’s pattern holds, it might have a few years of breathing space — or not.
“All we can do is look at the record, and the record is that there was a relatively large earthquake here in the city in 1737, and in 1884, and that periodicity is about 150 year heat cycle,” he said. “So you have 1737, 1884, 20– and, we’re getting there. But statistics can lie.”
“An earthquake could happen any day, or it couldn’t happen for 100 years, and you just don’t know, there’s no way to predict,” he said.
Miles noted that Ramapo Fault, which runs through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, could produce an earthquake as strong as a 7.0, which could do more damage to New York City than Superstorm Sandy.
One reason, she said, is old buildings. Miles estimated “New York City has 6,000 unreinforced masonry buildings that would collapse in a 7.0 quake.”
It would not take a major quake to cause major problems, Miles said. A medium-sized quake could cause $39 billion in losses and generate over 30 million tons of debris.
New York City has experienced seismic in recent years, but no damage has been recorded.
However in 1884, a 5.0 quake in NYC occurred near Rockaway Beach in Queens. The rumbling was felt over 70,000 square miles and rocked the Brooklyn Bridge.
According to Merguerian, the bottom line to to think of the unthinkable.
“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” he explained.” “And that’s a big mistake.”
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