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    Virginia Earthquake in Historical Perspective

    By By Jim Andrews, Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist
    August 26, 2011, 1:56:15 AM EDT

    Virginia's powerful magnitude 5.8 quake was unusual for its intensity amid the relative seismical quiet of eastern North America.

    The vast majority of the world's earthquakes strike along and near plate boundaries, as along North America's West coast. However, there is no such boundary in Virginia and eastern North America as a whole.

    Even so, Virginia does sometimes feel minor and even moderate shakes, as it does have two recognized "seismic zones."

    For Virginia, the quake ranks as the second strongest ever measured. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a magnitude 5.9 shake hit the Ridge and Valley at Narrows, near Pearisburg, in 1897. The location is roughly between Blacksburg, Va., and Bluefield, W.Va.

    Near the epicenter, brick house walls cracked, and chimneys were thrown down or badly damaged, according to the USGS. Minor damage was observed from about Bristol, Tenn., to Roanoke, Va.

    As with the 2011 temblor, the 1897 quake was felt widely in the eastern U.S. It was apparently felt in states from Georgia to Pennsylvania, and from the Eastern Seaboard inland to Indiana and Kentucky.

    The last time an Eastern U.S. quake matched the 5.8 magnitude of Tuesday's shake was in 1944. This magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck between Massena, N.Y., and Cornwall, Ontario. This quake caused minor damage on both sides of the border in the St. Lawrence River Valley.

    The Eastern Seaboard has had much more powerful, even deadly, earthquakes. Charleston, S.C., suffered an estimated 60 deaths and $23 million in damage following a severe quake that has been estimated at magnitude 7.3 by the USGS.

    Colonial era Boston, Mass., was hit by a destructive temblor in 1755. The Cape Ann earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 6.0 to 6.5.

    More recently, eastern Canada suffered a major quake, this one striking under water. The magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked the seafloor near the Grand Banks, south of the island of Newfoundland, in 1929. It unleashed a tsunami that drowned 27 people in the island's Burin Peninsula.


    Fallen merchandise fills an aisle in a Mineral, Va., food mart, following magnitude 5.8 quake centered nearby. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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