Posts Tagged ‘Earthquake in New York’

Could a major earthquake strike 125th Street?

June 20, 2013

125thstreetsignOkay, so it doesn’t pose the same level of threat as California’s San Andreas fault.

But Manhattan does have a fault line under layers of schist along Harlem’s main drag.

The 125th Street fault “runs from New Jersey to the East River, skirting the northern tip of Central Park and running southeast to Roosevelt Island,” explains a 2002 New York Times article.

125thstreetbridgeIRTBecause of the fault, the 1 train rises above ground and goes over a trestle bridge at 125th Street (left). The fault also forms the natural boundary between Manhattanville and Harlem.

And it’s not the only one within city borders. Another fault runs beneath Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and a third under Dyckman Street in Inwood.

So how worried should you be about the potential for a serious tremor?

Well, the last major city quake happened in 1884 and was centered around Coney Island.

“The New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century,” reported the Daily News in 2011. We might be due for one soon.

The Coney Island earthquake of 1884

January 20, 2010

New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.

But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Times article two days later.

The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.

[This photo shows a sweet Coney Island beach day in the 1940s, site of a tremor a mere 60 years earlier.]

It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. 

[Headline of The New York Times, August 12, 1884]

With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.

Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.