This Is the Biggest Earthquake to Ever Shake New York


Although earthquakes are not typically linked with New York, the state has had a number of notable seismic events during its history. The strongest one happened on September 5, 1944, close to the Canadian border. This 5.8-magnitude earthquake, also referred to as the Cornwall-Massena earthquake, inflicted damage in both nations. Here’s everything you need know about this exceptional and uncommon occurrence.

The Causes of the Cornwall-Massena Earthquake

The fault that caused the earthquake in Cornwall-Massena is an oblique-slip fault, which blends aspects of a strike-slip and a dip-slip motion. This indicates that there was movement in both the vertical and horizontal directions between the rocks on each side of the fault. The Saint Lawrence rift system, a seismically active region that stretches along the Saint Lawrence River, is where the earthquake happened. The Earth’s crust is being thinned and stretched by tectonic pressures along this rift system, which is a weak point in the crust. Despite the size of this rift system, the region has not previously experienced many significant earthquakes.

For an earthquake of this strength, the depth at which it struck—20 km, or 12.4 miles—is comparatively shallow. The surface earthquake’s intensity and damage were amplified due to its shallow depth.

The Location and the Impact of the Cornwall-Massena Earthquake

The Cornwall-Massena earthquake’s epicenter was close to the New York town of Massena at 44.956 N 74.833 W. The community is located slightly over 4 miles from the Canadian border. A wide swath of the country felt the effects of the earthquake, from Maine to Maryland and from Michigan to Massachusetts. Parts of Ontario and Quebec in Canada were also affected.

According to the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, which assesses how an earthquake affects people, structures, and the environment, the earthquake had an intensity of VIII, or Severe. The distance from the epicenter, the local geology, and the standard of building are some of the variables that affect an earthquake’s strength.

The closest cities to the epicenter of the earthquake, Massena and Cornwall, Ontario, both experienced some damage. Broken windows, tumbled chimneys, damaged walls, and overturned furniture were among the damage. Certain structures, like the post office in Cornwall and the gym at the Massena school, sustained more extensive damage and needed to be rebuilt or repaired. In certain places, the earthquake also caused problems with the water pipes, phone service, and power supplies. Thankfully, there have been no reports of significant injuries or fatalities from the earthquake.

The Significance of the Cornwall-Massena Earthquake

One of the biggest earthquakes to ever strike the eastern United States and Canada was the one that struck Cornwall-Massena, which was also the largest earthquake to ever rock New York. It was also one of the few significant earthquakes in the area, where there is typically little seismic activity and structures are not built to endure severe shaking. The earthquake made people aware of the need for improved seismic monitoring and preparedness in the region and illustrated the possibility of big, unanticipated earthquakes in the Saint Lawrence rift system.

The earthquake that struck Cornwall-Massena, New York, and its surrounding areas, was an uncommon and amazing occurrence. It served as a reminder of nature’s ferocity and unpredictable nature as well as the necessity of being ready for any eventuality.

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