The great shake: 4.8 magnitude earthquake felt around N.J. — but results in little damage

The 4.8 magnitude earthquake centered in the Whitehouse Station area of Hunterdon County literally shook the state — and caused delays at various transportation locations — but there appears to have been little damage or serious injuries.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, on social media, said it has been in contact with the state’s electric and gas distribution companies and the regional grid operator, PJM, and gave the all-clear.

“No impacts or damage to utility infrastructure or the grid resulting from the earthquake have been reported at this time,” the BPU said.

The state’s three largest hospital systems — Atlantic Health, Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health — all told ROI-NJ that their approximately three dozen hospitals had yet to find any damage.

RWJBH said: “Our teams are actively assessing our locations to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff members. At this time, there are no interruptions to services at any RWJBarnabas Health facilities. We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep our communities informed.”

The biggest impact to the state came in the transportation sector, as Newark Liberty International Airport announced a ground stop (to check the runways for cracking), New Jersey Transit/Amtrak announced short delays (to check the tracks) and the Holland Tunnel announced a delay to do an internal search for damage.

At 12:40 p.m., Newark Liberty said the earthquake had caused disruptions to its schedule, and, while it was working to get back up to speed, it urged passengers to check with their airline on the status of their flight.

Gov. Phil Murphy quickly acknowledged the quake on social media — urging residents to avoid calling 911 for anything other than a serious emergency.

“Our region just experienced an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.7, with an epicenter near Readington in Hunterdon County,” he wrote at 10:50 a.m. “We have activated our State Emergency Operations Center. Please do not call 911 unless you have an actual emergency.”

Around noon, the governor’s communications director announced that Murphy had spoken with President Joe Biden about the event.

The United States Geological Survey reportedly announced a 2.0 magnitude aftershock centered west of Bedminster in Somerset County occurred at roughly 12:20 p.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, on social media, warned that aftershocks are always a possibility.

Kenneth Miller, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University – New Brunswick and an expert on New Jersey geology, said the impact of quake equaled its magnitude.

“The earthquake was rated as a 4.7 or 4.8 by the United States Geological Survey, which is enough to rattle the walls, but generally not produce severe damage,” he said.

Miller said the earthquake occurred on the Ramapo Border fault at an estimated depth of 4.35 miles. He noted it was not unusual to have a quake on this fault, but that this episode was stronger than those in the past.

“This fault regularly experiences earthquakes, but they are generally an order of magnitude smaller than (3 on the Richter scale vs. 4.8 here),” he said. “The strength of the crust on the East Coast meant that the earthquake was felt over a wider area than similar sized (and more frequent) earthquakes on the West Coast.

“Some aftershocks would be possible, but they should be in the smaller 3 range.”

Friday’s earthquake is the second in the state this year.

The USGS said a 2.2 magnitude earthquake shook parts of Hunterdon County on March 14. The USGS said that quake was centered northeast of Whitehouse Station on the Ramapo fault.

To remind people, the scale measuring earthquakes is open-ended (it does not go up to 10). The earthquake that shook Taiwan earlier this week registered at 7.4.

The USGS reported that Friday’s quake was centered approximately 4.3 miles  north of the Whitehouse Station section of Readington Township in Hunterdon County.

The quake, which hit at 10:23 a.m., lasted approximately 20 seconds — and seemingly led to every resident calling or texting their family and friends to see if they felt it, too.

Reports indicated it was felt as far away as Virginia and New England.

Friday’s earthquake appears to be one of the largest to impact the state in its history — certainly in recent history.

According to the state of New Jersey’s website, the largest earthquake to impact New Jersey occurred in 1783. That earthquake, a magnitude 5.3 quake, occurred west of New York City and was felt from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania.