Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The magnitude 4.0 earthquake that occurred near Hollis Center, Maine on October 16, 2012 was widely felt across New England. Below are reports from people in the Boston area describing their experiences of the quake. Click here to read the reports.
To put these reports in a larger context, Figure 1 shows the distribution of felt reports from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Did You Feel It? website.
Figure 1: U.S. Geological Survey “Did You Feel It?” reports.
To compare these personal descriptions of what people experienced with what is recorded on seismographs, consider the seismogram shown in Figure 2, which was recorded at Boston College. When I asked people how long the shaking lasted, the responses ranged from 3 to 20 seconds, with an average of 9 sec. Also, a few people reported a “rumbling” sound, which (combined with their estimates of the duration) suggests that they were feeling/hearing the S waves and the lower-frequency surface waves.
Figure 2: Seismogram of October 16, 2012earthquake recorded at Boston College.
“The frame of the house, the doors and the windows shook and vibrated for a several seconds.”
“I was on the top floor of my friend’s dorm with a group of friends when the tremors started. We first heard a table rattle against the wall and then the shaking moved up through the couches and distributed evenly across the whole room. Right away someone asked if it was an earthquake, but we laughed it off and assumed it was just people running down the hall on the floor below us. I’d say the shaking lasted a total of 5 or 6 seconds”
“I was in my bedroom (3rd floor, wood house in Brighton) during the earthquake. For about 10 or 15 sec, the house shook from side to side. I thought that the downstairs tenant was moving some very heavy furniture up the stairs.”
“It seemed I heard it more than felt it – actually looked out the window to see if it was some distant gas explosion. It sounded like a rumble with some vibration, like a caravan of large army trucks going by. Lasted about 5 sec…”
“… I did not feel the earthquake myself, however my family … felt it. … While she was walking across the hall in the house she felt everything (all the furniture in the house) move, including herself…”
“I think I felt the earthquake. It felt like a large truck/train was going by for about 10 seconds. I was sitting down at my desk in my third floor apartment, and my apartment seemed to vibrate not shake or anything more intense.”
“On October 16th at 7:13 I was reclining in my coach … and then I heard/felt what sounded and felt like a Grand Piano or really big weight “hit” the flat roof above my apartment, “I yelled” “Knock it off!” as I thought it was some workers moving equipment on the roof which sometimes happens, then I heard what I thought was a collision of something really big with either the side of the building or in the hallway, what I felt then was from the side, and then there were 2 or 3 other loud “collisions” which then I knew I was experiencing my first earthquake! The total time I would say was approximately 10-12 seconds.”
“I was sitting in a corner study lounge on the 5th floor of my dorm when I started to feel the shaking. I noticed it in the walls around me. My first thought was that it was an earthquake, but was so surprised that I didn’t actually believe it until I checked USGS. But I felt about 4 to 5 seconds of shaking, accompanied by a rumbling sound (which could have come from the building or the earthquake itself). ”
“My family was sitting at the dinner table in our third-floor apartment when the quake hit… probably about 5 seconds of swaying — definitely enough time to say “that’s an earthquake!” Based on our experiences in Christchurch … guessed it at a 4.5 magnitude. That was a pretty good guess.”
“We were sitting in our apartment in the third floor when it happened. Me and my wife were on the sofa talking and my daughter was playing on the floor when the whole apartment started shaking. My daughter got scared and jumped on the sofa and sat next to me. She remained frozen with fear as we watched the floor, curtains and the walls shake. In the kitchen china rattled and our LCD TV started oscillating back and forth on its base on the table. It lasted for about 15 seconds.”
“During the earthquake I felt my futon slightly moving back and forth, it was the sort of disturbance you feel when you live in an old house and someone is having a dance party in the floor above you. It must have taken me about 6 seconds to realize that this was happening and then I felt a rather strong shake that made my tv move slightly. The stronger shake must have last about 3 seconds, since I remember quickly standing up, looking at the window and noticing that everything was calm again.”
“I definitely felt the earthquake, like a giant truck rumbling too close to our house – the kitchen floor shook with quick vibrations. … I also heard the glass bottles rattling on the open shelves.”
“My wife and I were walking our dogs in Jamaica Plain when I heard an odd low rumble coming from the direction of downtown Boston. At first I just assumed it was a jet or bus, but as the sound grew louder and closer I could hear that it was more broad and not a point source. Within a few seconds the sound rolled right though our neighborhood and I could hear what was clearly the sound of creaking buildings and a low earthly rumble. The wave of sound continued past to the south. I commented on how weird the whole thing was, and only later found out that what we experienced was the quake propagating from north to south through the greater Boston metro.”