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THE NATION

5.1 Quake Rattles Parts of New York State

Northeast: Gov. Pataki declares a state of emergency in two counties. Tremors felt as far as Baltimore.

April 21, 2002|From Associated Press

AUSABLE FORKS, N.Y. — An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 shook the Northeast awake early Saturday, collapsing roads in New York and rattling homes from Maine to Maryland. No injuries were immediately reported.

Gov. George Pataki declared states of emergency in Essex and Clinton counties near the Vermont and Canada borders. No restrictions were placed on travel, but police were urging drivers to use caution.

The quake, centered 15 miles southwest of Plattsburgh, N.Y., left cracks in foundations and chimneys throughout the region, said Ray Thatcher, director of emergency services for Essex County.

In the nearby hamlet of Jay, the earthquake caused an explosion that disrupted a New York State Electric & Gas substation, sending sparks into the sky and cutting power to about 3,500 residents, Thatcher said. Power was expected to be restored by late Saturday.

William Ott, a seismologist at Weston Observatory at Boston College, said at least two aftershocks were reported.

He called the earthquake "moderate." A typical magnitude 5.1 earthquake would cause cracked plaster, broken windows and minor structural damage around the epicenter, he said.

State inspectors were sent to the Adirondacks to examine bridges and dams for damage. The state Department of Environmental Conservation inspected all the dams in the area and found no damage.

The quake broke off a 100-foot section from one road in Ausable, said David Fessette, Clinton County highway construction supervisor. A crew was filling the area with limestone Saturday afternoon. Parts of at least two other roads collapsed, and there were several water main breaks.

At Adirondack Mountain Spirits in Ausable, the earthquake rattled liquor bottles off the shelves.

"It was just a mess," said owner Dayle Richards. "Even if they didn't break, they were covered with other debris."

The largest quake recorded in New York, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was a 5.8 magnitude quake in 1944 that was centered in Massena, about three miles from Canada.

Won Young Kim, a seismologist at the Columbia University Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, said a 3.5 quake occurred in the same area on April 20 two years ago.

"Northern New York is an active area, but most of the earthquakes that occur in the area are smaller," said Frank Revetta, a professor of geology at State University of New York at Potsdam. "Normally you'd get one this big just every 100 years or so.

"During the last two or three years, there haven't been many at all, and I wondered if that meant anything. This might prove the strained energy had not been released, and now it has been."

By several accounts, the shaking lasted about 30 seconds.

Amanda Slattery, of Yorktown Heights just north of New York City, said she was in bed when the temblor struck.

"I could hear the frame of the house shaking," Slattery said.

Tremors also were felt in Canada, as far east as Boston and Portland, Maine, and as far south as Baltimore.

Carol McDonald of Downingtown, Pa., about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, said she woke up to find the windows of her home rattling.

She and her husband grabbed their baby and waited out the tremors.

"I'm from California and [said], 'This feels like an earthquake.' I didn't think we got those out here."

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