Virginia Earthquake
The August 2011 Virginia earthquake is not a "Sign of 2012"

Virginia Quake Location
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USGS location of the 5.8 earthquake of August 23, 2011

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 01:51:04 PM, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck central Virginia about 38 miles NorthWest of Richmond, VA.

Seismic History

Virginia has a long seismic history of sporadic earthquakes. Here is article from the USGS webpage from 1977 detailing some of the seismic history of this region.

Reports of Damage

As expected in a moderate quake, there have been several reports of damage, and because of the area, this damage may be over a fairly wide area. Pictures of cars damaged by falling masonry, and stores littered with product that was knocked off of shelves are circulating. According to some, there are also reports of various injuries. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some injuries were incurred when people jumped out of windows during the quake.

USGS Summary Page

At the USGS Summary Page for this quake, they state:

Since at least 1774, people in central Virginia have felt small earthquakes and suffered damage from infrequent larger ones. The largest damaging earthquake (magnitude 4.8) in the seismic zone occurred in 1875. Smaller earthquakes that cause little or no damage are felt each year or two.


East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).

Influence of the Internet

The web-comic xkcd has a pointed statement about the effect of the internet on earthquake reporting. Suddenly a moderate quake is 'huge', and people around the world are hearing about it instantly. Frequently the people reporting the quake and hearing about the quake have no idea exactly how common earthquakes are.

At the same time, people in the area are using humor to deflect the hysteria, as in this example from 2010.

FEMA and Earthquakes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an article on earthquake preparedness that should be mandatory reading for everybody.


Earthquakes have occurred in this area in the past, and will continue to occur in this area in the future. The August 23, 2011 earthquake is not a 'sign' of 2012, was not caused by an 'alignment of comet Elenin' and has no relationship to the 2012 doomsday hoax


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