West Virginia

Earthquake History

Damage to chimneys was reported at Bluefield, West Virginia, on May 31, 1897, from a strong earthquake located in Giles County, Virginia. Bluefield is approximately 40 kilometers distant from the epicenter. Grafton, about 240 kilometers distant, reported "windows broken and officials panic-stricken."

A strong earthquake in the Charles Town - Martinsburg area occurred on April 2, 1909. Pictures were thrown from walls, and many people rushed from their houses in terror at Charles Town (MM V-VI). Many were awakened and alarmed at Winchester, Virginia, by the 2:25 a.m. tremor. The total felt area covered approximately 6500 square kilometers, including places in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The epicenter was near where the four States' boundaries are nearly convergent.

A number of places in West Virginia felt tremors from a major earthquake on November 1, 1935, centered near Timiskaming, Quebec, Canada. Moundsville and Wheeling reported MM IV effects, and Charleston, Fairmont, Parkersburg, Ravenswood, Sutton, and Wellsburg reported MM I-III effects. At 3:30 a.m. on the same day, about 2 1/2 hours after the Canadian earthquake, three trembling shocks lasting about 30 seconds each were felt by several people in Elkins. No damage was reported, but houses trembled and windows and dishes rattled (MM V).

Two damaging earthquakes in the Anna, Ohio, area on March 2 and 8, 1937, were reported felt at Huntington, West Virginia; the intensity was estimated to be MM I-III. On March 8, 1943, an earthquake centered in Ohio was reported felt at Wheeling, West Virginia (MM I-III). On September 5, 1944, a strong earthquake centered near Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, and Massena, New York, was reported felt at Parkersburg, West Virginia (MM I-III).

An April 23, 1959, earthquake located in the Virginia - West Virginia border region caused minor damage in Giles County, Virginia, where several chimneys were damaged, plaster on walls cracked, and articles fell from shelves. Two places in West Virginia felt this shock, Lindside (MM IV) and Rock Camp (MM I-III). The southern Illinois earthquake of November 9, 1968, magnitude 5.3, was felt in 23 States throughout the central and eastern United States. Hamlin, Huntington, Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, Wayne, and Williamson, West Virginia, observed MM I-III effects.

Probably the strongest, most widely felt earthquake in West Virginia's history occurred on November 19, 1969. Only minor damage was sustained from the magnitude 4.3 shock. It consisted chiefly of cracked and fallen plaster and broken windows at Athens, Lerona, and Elgood (MM VI). Similar damage was reported from Glen Lyn and Rich Creek, Virginia. Loud earth noises accompanied the tremor at many places. A number of other towns outside the epicentral area noted MM V effects: Itmann (window cracks), Logan (slight plaster cracks), Pipestem (plaster cracks), and Ramp (slight damage). The earthquake was felt over approximately 260,000 square kilometers of West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland (one place), North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

On August 11, 1970, a small shock in the west-central portion of the State was felt over a limited area. Charleston, Eskdale, Hamlin, Hurricane, and Saint Albans reported MM IV effects. Another minor tremor was reported felt near Morgantown on September 12, 1972. The earthquake was recorded on the seismograph at Morgantown operated by the University of West Virginia. The active region in Giles County, Virginia, was the center of a moderate disturbance on May 30, 1974. No damage occurred, but small objects shifted, houses and windows rattled, and residents were frightened. Gap Mills and Pickaway, West Virginia, observed MM V effects.

A small area of northwestern West Virginia and southeastern Ohio reported a minor shock on October 20, 1974. One report of cracked plaster and articles toppling from shelves was received from Parkersburg. Ravenswood, West Virginia, and Belpre, Ohio, noted MM V effects. Belleville, Cottageville, New Haven, and Morgantown reported MM IV effects.

Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 10, Number 2, March - April 1978, by Carl A. von Hake.

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