NEWBURYPORT — A small earthquake rattled homes throughout much of New England just after 7 last night, causing minimal damage in the Newburyport area.
The U.S. Geological Survey at first estimated the 7:12 p.m. quake as a 4.6 magnitude, but later downgraded that to 4.0. The epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, is about 3 miles deep. That location is about 20 miles west of Portland and about 60 miles north of Newburyport.
The quake was felt as far south as Rhode Island, as far west as Vermont and as far north as northern Maine, according to the U.S. Geological Service.
In the Newburyport area, residents reported houses shaking. In Salisbury, police said a house lost power due to damage suffered from the quake. But it did not appear any injuries were reported as a result.
Paul DiNatale of 82 Prospect St., Newburyport, said his house shook for about 20 seconds. He thought at first it was his furnace blowing up. Although some paintings on the wall were tilted, there was no serious damage to his 1830s post-and-beam home.
Facebook users lit up the social media website with reports of who felt what — and where and when they felt it.
Several other people reported thinking that their furnace had blown up or their washing machine had malfunctioned before realizing an earthquake was behind the tremors.
On the Daily News’ Facebook page, one woman said she was at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport visiting her aunt when the building swayed and the TV started shaking. Another woman said she thought her house was hit by a truck. Others on Facebook posted about loud, vibration noises in Amesbury.
Yet, one man who was at The Black Cow restaurant on the Newburyport waterfront said he felt nothing, but the chef said things were shaking in the storeroom.
Seabrook Station nuclear plant declared an unusual event — the lowest of four emergency classifications, but officials there said it was not affected. The plant has been offline for refueling.
“There has been no impact at all to the plant from the earthquake and our refueling maintenance activities have not been affected,” said Alan Griffith, spokesman for Next EnergyEra Seabrook Station.
Experts say the region’s geology can make the effects felt in an area up to 10 times larger than quakes of similar size on the West Coast. Locations where homes are close to ledge can often feel a stronger effect from an earthquake, as the stone tends to transmit earthquake tremors.
Apparently, Newburyport may be more likely to feel quakes due to the granite ridge that runs under the High Street neighborhoods, according to the experts.
Earthquakes are not an unusual phenomenon in New England, though the strength of quakes recorded in the past 250 years has been relatively weak. New England witnessed its last major quake in the 1750s.
Earthquakes are rare in New England, but they’re not unheard of. In 2006 there was a series of earthquakes around Maine’s Acadia National Park, including one with a magnitude of 4.2 that caused boulders to fall from ledges onto Acadia National Park’s loop road. One of the park’s trails was closed for three years because of damage from the quake.
The strongest earthquake recorded in Maine occurred in 1904 in the Eastport area, near the state’s eastern border with Canada, according the Weston Observatory at Boston College. With a magnitude estimated at 5.7 to 5.9, it damaged chimneys and brick walls and could be felt in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
East Coast quakes are rarely strong enough to be felt over a wide area. A quake of magnitude 5.8 on Aug. 23, 2011, was centered in Virginia and felt all along the coast, including in New York City and Boston.
Jim Van Dongen, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety said New Hampshire 911 got about 1,000 calls in the first hour after the quake, but they later dropped off. He said no major damage was reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.