USM professor says earthquakes not uncommon in Virginia

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Virginia Tuesday is not that uncommon, said USM geology professor Lin Pope.

Pope said earthquakes have hit Virginia several times since is became a state in 1788.

In September of 1886, Charleston, SC, was the epicenter for a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that was felt from Boston to parts of Cuba.

Although larger earthquakes in the Eastern U.S. are rare, when the Atlantic coast begins to shake its shockwaves are felt from farther distances than their western cousins.

Geologist Sandy Ebersole credits these far-traveling vibrations to the differences in density of the Earth's crust between the two coasts.

Ebersole explained this phenomenon further by comparing the West Coast's fractured underlying geology to a cracked bell. When the cracked bell is struck, its sound dissipates quicker than it would from a solid bell.

Just like the solid bell, the eastern states' dense geology gives an earthquake the ability to travel further distances.