Historic Earthquakes

Irondale, Jefferson County, Alabama
1916 10 18 22:04 UTC
Magnitude 5.10
Intensity VII

Largest Earthquake in Alabama

Epicenter On the basis of the number of chimneys destroyed, this earthquake was more severe in Irondale than in any other town between Easonville and Birmingham. At Irondale, about 5 kilometers north of Birmingham, 14 chimneys in a two-block area were partly destroyed, and six chimneys on a brick store were leveled almost to the roof. Many other chimneys either were leveled to the roofs or were cracked so badly that they had to be rebuilt. At Pell City, a few bricks were dislocated from one of the courthouse chimneys, and near Easonville, a few chimneys were damaged lightly. Poorly built chimneys on the eastern edge of Birmingham were damaged heavily.

A careful study of the Red Gap fault, which extends from near Gate City to beyond Irondale, did not reveal direct evidence of recent earth movement. The most significant geologic result was the effect of the earthquake on underground water, particularly in Irondale. Five wells in a one-block area of Irondale went dry immediately after the shock, and the water level in many others was lowered. At Pell City, the shock lowered the water level in one well about 50 centimeters. Several small aftershocks occurred through October 28. Also felt in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993.