Although Florida is not usually considered to be a state subject to earthquakes, several minor shocks have occurred there. Only one of these caused damage. Additional shocks of doubtful seismic origin also are listed in earthquake documents.
A shock occurred near St. Augustine, in the northeast part of the State, in January 1879. The Nation's oldest permanent settlement, founded by Spain in 1565, reported that heavy shaking knocked plaster from walls and articles from shelves. Similar effects were noted at Daytona Beach, 50 miles south. At Tampa, the southernmost point of the felt area, the trembling was preceded by a rumbling sound at 11:30 p.m. Two shocks were reported in other areas, at 11:45 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. The tremor was felt through north and central Florida, and at Savannah, Georgia.
In January 1880, Cuba was the center of two strong earthquakes that sent severe shock waves through the town of Key West, Florida. The tremors occurred at 11 p.m. on January 22 and at 4 a.m. on the 23rd. At Buelta Abajo and San Christobal, Cuba, many buildings were thrown down and some people were killed.
The next tremor to be felt by Floridians also centered outside the State. It was the famous Charleston, South Carolina, shock in August 1886. The shock was felt throughout northern Florida, ringing church bells at St. Augustine and severely jolting other towns along that section of Florida's east coast. Jacksonville residents felt many of the strong aftershocks that occurred in September, October, and November 1886.
On June 20, 1893, Jacksonville experienced another slight shock, apparently local, that lasted about 10 seconds. Another minor earthquake shook Jacksonville at 11:15 a.m., October 31, 1900. It caused no damage.
A sudden jar caused doors and windows to rattle at Captiva in November 1948. The apparent earthquake was accompanied by sounds like distant heavy explosions. Captiva is located on Captiva Island, in the Gulf west of Fort Myers.
On November 18, 1952, a slight tremor was felt by many at Quincy, a small town about 20 miles northwest of Tallahassee. Windows and doors rattled, but no serious effects were noted. One source notes, "The shock interfered with writing of a parking ticket." It didn't say in what way.
The three Florida shocks of doubtful seismic origin rumbled through the Everglades - La Belle - Fort Myers area in July 1930, Tampa in December 1940, and the Miami - Everglades - Fort Myers area in January 1942. Most authorities attribute these incidents to blasting, but a few contend they were seismic.
Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 5, September-October 1971.
For a list of earthquakes that have occurred since this article was written, use the Earthquake Search.