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Buffalo, New York, area is hit with the strongest earthquake in 40 years

A 3.8-magnitude earthquake struck Monday morning near Buffalo, New York, the strongest recorded in the area in 40 years.

The quake hit 1.24 miles east-northeast of West Seneca, New York, with a depth of 1.86 miles around 6:15 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said no damage reports have been received so far in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo that sits near the U.S.-Canada border.

He added he spoke with the Erie County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Deputy Commissioner Gregory J. Butcher, who said a “confirmed quake was felt as far north as Niagara Falls and south to Orchard Park.”

“It felt like a car hit my house in Buffalo. I jumped out of bed,” Poloncarz said.

Yaareb Altaweel, a seismologist at the National Earthquake Information Center, said Northeast earthquakes “happen all the time” and quakes can strike anywhere at any time.

Since 1983, there have been 24 earthquakes above a magnitude of 2.5 in the West Seneca region, with Monday’s being the largest so far in the area.

Altaweel said there was another 3.8-magnitude quake that took place in 1999 in western New York.

On a scale of earthquakes, 3.8 isn’t that big. But the crust in that region is old crust. It’s old and cold and the efficiency of transferring the seismic waves versus sedimentary areas — that’s why people can feel it more. That’s why earthquakes can be felt even at 1.0 in some places,” Altaweel explained.

Altaweel said that a 3.8-magnitude quake is “not a big earthquake that you’d expect damage from.”

Pre-existing fractures and fault lines can be the cause of earthquakes hitting so far inland, he said.

Altaweel said there’s nothing abnormal about this shock.

“I’d say it’s very normal. There was one, a 2.6 in March 2022. There was another 2 in 2020. These keep happening in this region at low magnitude,” he explained.

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Across the globe, an initial 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Turkey was followed hours later by a 7.5-magnitude quake that shook buildings and left more than 2,200 people dead in the country and neighboring Syria. The toll is expected to rise sharply on both sides of the border.

The quake was centered about 4 miles east of Buffalo, and happened about 2 miles underground, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS has received more than 2,500 reports from people who say they felt the quake, including Niagara Falls, Rochester and southern Ontario.

Western New Yorkers wrote on social media that they at first thought the earthquake was a truck hitting their house, a water tank exploding, or a sonic boom.

“Omg, I’m shaking in Cheektowaga!!!,” one woman wrote.

And, this being Buffalo, many immediately made a connection to snow.

“Thought it was snow falling from the roof,” one Twitter user wrote.

“You know you are from Buffalo when an earthquake wakes you up and your first thought is ‘was that a snow plow?,’” tweeted Kevin O’Neill.

The USGS said the region gets “moderately frequent earthquakes,” most weak enough that they don’t cause damage.

A 3.8-magnitude earthquake is relatively weak and is not expected to cause much damage, Earthquakes Canada said.

The scale used to measure earthquakes is logarithmic, so each number is 10 times more severe. A 5-magnitude quake is 10 times stronger than a 4, for example.

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