Quake Jolts Garden State

New Jersey Experiences Strongest Trembler Since End of Revolutionary War

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Minutes before 10:30 AM on Friday morning, the ground began to shake across the Garden State.  From Whitehouse Station and Lebanon Township in Hunterdon County to Gladstone and Bedminster in Somerset County to Middlesex and South Plainfield in Middlesex County, the ground rumbled for several minutes.  Many parts of the Mid-Atlantic from Washington, D.C. to New York City and further north to New England felt some sort of impact from the quake that jolted the Garden State.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an Earthquake centered near I-78 West in Whitehouse Station occurred at 10:23 AM on Friday.  Measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, and with a depth of 4.7 kilometers or 2.8 miles, the trembler developed along the Ramapo fault.  This Northern New Jersey fault system is not as well known or as significant as the notorious San Andreas Fault in California but has been responsible for many Jersey quakes.  The quake was the strongest one in New Jersey since the end of the Revolutionary War.  

As many as 14 states were affected. The impact was felt in New York City, which suffered through its strongest tremor since 1884. Nearby, in Newark, New Jersey several homes were found leaning and unstable.  Residents were evacuated at the time but returned home after the buildings were determined to be safe on Saturday morning.  Since the initial earthquake on Friday morning, there have been a total of 38 aftershocks centered in Hunterdon, Somerset, and Morris County.

The most significant aftershock occurred just before 6:00 PM on Friday.  Centered about 4.2 miles to the Southwest of Gladstone, New Jersey in Northern Somerset County, the aftershock initially measured about 4.0 on the Richter scale but was later revised to 3.8.  The aftershock and the original quake were both felt at GWC in South Plainfield.  The house rattled and things swayed, but no damage occurred.  

The USGS indicated that more aftershocks are possible in the coming days and weeks.  There is a 46 percent chance of an aftershock with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher over the next week.  Only a 16 percent chance of an aftershock greater than 4.0.   Major quakes have occurred along the East Coast including 7.2 magnitude quakes in Charleston, South Carolina in 1886 and the Grand Banks in 1929.  The East Coast of the United States lies along the Appalachians, which is a much older mountain range than that of the Rockies.  

The trembler was the most significant one in the Mid-Atlantic since August 2011.  Five days before Hurricane Irene, on August 23, 2011, the ground shook in the Garden State.  This time, the trembler was centered further away in the Piedmont region of Virginia some 40 miles to the northwest of the capital of Richmond.  However, the quake was much stronger with a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale, which was 10 times stronger than Friday’s quake.  The 2011 tremor was also deeper at 6 kilometers or 3.6 miles.

The 2011 earthquake was felt along much of the East Coast.  It was the largest trembler in the history of Virginia.  There have been 28 earthquakes in the Garden State since 2007.  Before the earthquake on Friday, the strongest Jersey quake was a 3.4 trembler centered some 3 miles Southeast of Old Bridge on September 9, 2020.  The most recent one before Friday was on March 14, 2014.  It was a tremor that measured 2.3 on the Richter scale and located 14 miles to the West-Northwest of Middlesex.

While Earthquakes are rare in the Mid-Atlantic, they have happened before.  Back in April 1984, there was an earthquake that measured 4.1 on the Richter scale in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The second one occurred four days after the initial shock.  The first one happened on April 18th and was only a magnitude between 2.7 and 2.8.  The second one happened on the night of Easter Sunday and was felt in seven states including New Jersey.  

I was in 8th grade at the time of the 1984 Easter Sunday quake.  I was in bed watching television when I felt and saw the room begin to shake.  I didn’t realize that it was an earthquake until the following morning when it was reported on the news.  At the time of the 2011 quake, I was on my break at work and was walking outside.  So, I didn’t feel anything.  The only way I knew something happened was after I came back into the building, and was asked by others if I had felt the quake.

My mom was at home during the August 2011 quake, and she was in the kitchen when it happened.  She could recall seeing the dishes in the hutch rattling.  This time, I was working from home when the trembler occurred on Friday.  My mother was home as well.  Comparing the two quakes, my mother felt that this one was worse.  The 2024 quake’s epicenter was much closer and shallower, which may have made it feel worse.

When the shaking began on Friday, I originally thought that it might have been an explosion of some kind.  However, the longer the rumbling went on, the more I became convinced that it was an earthquake.  I reached out to social media for further confirmation and I got it.   I was frozen in my chair though.  I didn’t think of perhaps getting up and outside where I could be safer.  Thankfully, the rumbling eventually stopped.